Nov 10, 2011 at 12:18 PM
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Soccer Club Changes 119 Yr Old Stadium Name To Something More Sponsor Friendly

After 119 years playing in St. James Park, Newcastle United has decided it needs to rename its arena to become more sponsor friendly. Earlier today the club announced the name change following consultation with international branding experts.

The original naming rights proposal, launched in November 2009, invited sponsors to link their brand to St. James' Park, but this did not prove commercially attractive. Instead, the club will now seek a sponsor who will be granted full naming rights. Until that time, the stadium will be renamed after Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s sporting goods retailer, Sports Direct International.

"When we initially launched our plans at the end of 2009, we invited sponsors to attach their brand to that of St. James' Park. However it has become clear that in order to make the proposition as commercially attractive as possible, a potential sponsor must be given the opportunity to fully rebrand the stadium," Managing Director, Derek Llambias, commented. "Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps up to showcase the opportunity to interested parties. We are now actively seeking a long-term sponsor wishing to acquire full naming rights for the stadium."

The stadium, opened in 1892, will be in the spotlight next summer as it hosts nine matches during London's upcoming Olympic games. Prior to that time, Newcastle hopes to land a shirt and stadium deal worth about £10m a year.

"Our shirt sponsorship deal with Northern Rock will also expire at the end of this season, which presents would-be sponsors with the opportunity to acquire both the naming rights and shirt sponsorship deals," Llambias added.

St James' Park is the oldest and largest soccer stadium in the North East of England and it is the sixth largest stadium in the UK.

Initial fan reaction to the move seems to be some combination of confusion and disappointment, but some die-hard fans are still holding out hope.

"[It] would be tremendous if a massive company bought the naming rights & called it St James' Park.. great PR," BBC Football Columnist, Dan Walker, tweeted.