Sunday, 8 November 2009

Naming Wrongs

NB: Now then. It's been a good long while since I've written on this here blog. I make no apologies for my lack of commitment and laziness but I seem to have caught the writing bug again so more regular updates could well be forthcoming. Of course, in the spirit of true cliched footballing terminology concerning returns from injury, I may not be 'match fit' just yet in terms of my output but I'm sure it is only a matter of time before I return to the epic rantings of days gone by.

Apologies to William Shakespeare:

"What's in a name? That which we call a football club
By any other name will play as bad"

So the geordies are seemingly up in arms over the fact that their 'home' has been renamed. In a move that has sparked anger amongst the long suffering Toon Army, the ever-popular Mike Ashley, not content with relegating the club and trying to flog it to anyone that would appear to have more money than sense, has decided to re-name, or in business bullsh*t speak 're-brand', the historical St. James' Park stadium as @ St. James' Park.

Not very conversational is it?

Aside from the fact it is an awful name and sounds like a spam email address (Although probably not selling Viagra given the club's troubles staying up last season...), the outraged fans have suggested that it is an attack on the heritage of the club and even went so far as to stage protests before yesterday's win over Peterborough.

Ashley's actions reflect the direction modern football has been heading down for many a year now. A sport that is more concerned with branding, commerical interests, marketability, and quite simply how much money can be made rather than sporting endeavour and achievements on the pitch. The 'business' of football extends far, far, FAR beyond 22 men kicking a leather ball around a patch of grass for 90 minutes.

Rightly or wrongly, this is debate for another day. What bothers me most about this whole situation is the misplaced righteous indignation of both fans and commentators alike. I alluded to the idea of loss of heritage line that has been trotted out all week but I'm struggling to see why people are so upset. The name addition (note: NOT name change) means nothing. Quite simply, the stadium is still on the site of St. James Park, the place is still called St. James Park albeit with a rather unnecessary addition, and most importantly, the fans(not just of the Magpies) will STILL call it St. James Park. In fact, the only person who this name change will affect is Richard Keys who will be obliged to introduce the ground as so when Newcastle feature on Sky. And to be honest, who really cares about Richard Keys?

This has no impact of the history or 'heritage' of the club, the careers of Milburn, Robson and Shearer nor the subsequent careers of future Newcastle heroes.

Indeed, the club's much maligned owner hasn't exactly covered himself in glory since taking charge of the club. However, for the sake of this argument let's take Ashley's explanation for the 'rebrand' at face value. He claims it will maximise the commercial potential of both his team and his sportswear empire. Leaving aside the fact that all the subsequent negative publicy has made that extremely doubtful, surely this means he had the best intentions of the club in mind when coming to this decison. The more succesful Sports Direct become, the richer Ashley gets and the more money goes into the club right? If the club benefits overall then what is the problem? I suspect that the other club involved in naming rights discussions this week wont have their fans reacting the same way. You have to wonder if the protest is against the idea or the man behind idea. To me, it just looks as though the fans just want any other excuse to vent their collective spleen at their less than illustrious leader.

If the agenda isn't one against Ashley, once more you have to suspect that the self-proclaimed best fans in the world have some kind of complex about how they are percieved and feel they need to kick up a stink just to show the rest of us how much they think love their club. All this needs now is for Kevin Keegan to show up in some capacity make the whole ridiculous charade complete.

I also struggle to understand the reason why those up north consider stadium sponsorship/branding to be the work of some advertising Beelzebub when they happily walk around with replica shirts emblazoned with Northern Rock of all bloody things on their front.

Who knows? The name change may even bring about a change of fortune and see Newcastle actuially win something in the modern era...

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