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End of St James’ Park is ultimate sell-out for Newcastle fans
Newcastle United fans have put up with a lot over the years but selling “naming rights” for James’ Park might be the final straw for some fans.
At 10pm on Tuesday the club announced that Chris Hughton would be made full-time manager and that owner Mike Ashley would no longer be selling and instead would inject 20 million pounds this week.
Slipped in among the back-slapping was the news that the club would welcome bids for the naming rights of the ground the club has occupied with pride since 1892.
Newcastle fans have had years of fun abusing Sunderland for what they consider the pretentious “Stadium of Light” which replaced Roker Park 12 years ago and now their fiercest rivals are poised to return the favour when one of the most famous and atmospheric grounds in the country becomes an advert.
Supporters have become less sensitive about names of new or rebuilt stadiums since the days when Millwall’s Den was imaginatively named “The New Den” and selling the naming rights to a new ground, such as the Emirates Stadium, is no longer that controversial.
Slapping a new name on an established ground, however, is another matter entirely.
Manchester United, never slow to miss a commercial opportunity, would surely never consider losing “Old Trafford” even though the sort of fee they could command for such a deal would dwarf anything Newcastle could hope to raise.
Imagine Liverpool’s players trotting down the tunnel and reaching up to pat a sign reading “This is the ACME Co Stadium”, with the world-famous Anfield relegated to the club museum.
Such decisions are exactly why Ashley is so disliked and distrusted by the rank and file Newcastle fans, something that cannot be changed by donning a replica shirt and downing a few pints amongst them.
The forum of the city’s Evening Chronicle newspaper website was overflowing with comments from angry fans on Wednesday.
Though some fans said it was not a major issue and that the money would be welcome, the overall feeling was very opposed. “Magpie5uk” led the way with the following heartfelt pros:
“This completely detached buffoon has to be stopped. He is unscrupulous, and will not stop until he has taken everything that not only fans, but people of Newcastle in general, appreciate. He is systematically destroying everything that means anything to the fans.
1…Our Premier League Status.
2…Our top players.
7…Our enjoyment of Saturday Afternoons.
8…(AND POSSIBLY THE WORST OF ALL!) Our heritage, with this DISGRACEFUL decision to sell the name of the ground!!!
This man MUST be stopped!!”
PHOTO: Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley (C) at St James’ Park, Feb 1, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis