Date: 9th November 2009 at 7:50pm
Written by:

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley might have unwittingly found the best way to create total unity amongst Toon fans.

St James’ Park is the third largest club stadium in England. It’s the largest ground in the Championship. It has the largest cantilever roof in Europe. The top corner of the Milburn Stand is the vertiginous peak of all the stadiums of England.. you can get no further away from any football pitch and still stay seated, unless you own a helicopter. Opened in 1892, it has a glorious history. It’s iconic.

And yet, as we all know, Ashley has ignored the history and substantial local strength of feeling (you’d think he’s have learnt his lesson by now) and re-named it sportsdirect.com@StJames’Park. The unity he’s created unfortunately means that everyone hates that name, and him for changing it.

Is it really modern and forward thinking, incorporating both tradition and commercial considerations?

Or is it crass, insensitive, lowest-common-denominator scum-sucking greed? That may be your view, and I’m guessing that would be the majority of Wednesday fans’ feelings on first hearing the news.

It’s the re-naming we have a problem with, isn’t it? If you’re going to build a new stadium, you are casting aside years of past history but you’re boldly going forward into a new era, so it’s less of a problem. I don’t think there was a tenth the amount of fuss over, say, the Emirates Stadium (there may be some who call it Ashburton Grove, I dunno) because it was new. Highbury is a fond memory for Arsenal fans. The Emirates was the future, and is well established now in hearts and minds.

And looking around the world at similar deals, Newcastle fans got off lightly. York City play at the rather chocolatey KitKat Crescent. The University of San Diego men’s basketball team plays at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, sponsored by Kirstie Alley’s favourite weight loss guru. MLS soccer team FC Dallas play at Pizza Hut Park. The NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers play at the saucily named Heinz Field. FC Nuremberg from the Bundesliga play at EasyCredit-Stadion (at least until 2011 when the deal is up for renewal).

But that news won’t make a St. James’ Park name change any easier to bear for the Toon Army. They’re livid, and rightly so.

But hang on a minute, let’s not get indignant, let’s pause a moment for reflection. Here’s a thought. We know the coffers at Sheffield Wednesday are in need of replenishment. Investment in the club is on the far distant horizon, no matter how hard Lee Strafford, Nick Parker and the club are working to attract it.

So if Wednesday re-named Hillsborough, and it meant that Brian Laws could pay for an extra season-long loan of a Premiership player (another Franck Songo’o, for example) would you throw away your principles and be happy that the Owls grabbed the cash from stadium naming rights? Or would you be up in arms, picketing the club, waving your placards and protesting at the sacrilege?

Scroll down to the bottom right corner of this page, and cast your vote. We’d like to know what you think.