Who would have thought that supporters will win their beloved name St. James’ Park by a naming rights deal? New 4-year contract with Wonga guarantees that the ground will return to its 120-year-old name. BBC reports.
It’s been almost a year since Newcastle United provoked nationwide outrage with name change for their stadium. St. James’ Park was ‘rebranded’ to Sports Direct Arena in an attempt to present potential benefits to sponsors seeking a good naming rights contract. As Sports Direct belongs to club owner Mike Ashley, NUFC didn’t receive extra funding through the name swap.
They did however receive massive criticism not only from their supporters. Even media all over United Kingdom (with BBC among notable exceptions) followed the tune and refused to call the stadium Sports Direct Arena. Instead, they followed the nearly 120-year-old traditional name.
Now it’s official – old name is back and perhaps most ironically thanks to new sponsorship deal. Newcastle are to play with loan company Wonga on their jerseys for the next 4 years. The sponsor also bought naming rights for the stadium just to leave its name untouched.
"We listened over the last three days and we saw what really matters to the fans," a Wonga spokesman said. "Football is an emotional sport and it is obviously really important to them. We listened to what they wanted and that is why we did it."
The Wonga deal still brought quite some controversy as it’s the first loan company to become a sponsor. With Wonga’s reputation of charging very high interest rates, news of the contract brought concern to the governing bodies. The FA are currently analyzing whether this kind of advertising is legal.