A Soapbox sermon to Newcastle supporters: what’s in a name?


War clouds may not yet be gathering in Europe, but the financial system nears meltdown. Crisis is everywhere. Recession bites deeper. Tom Watson calls Murdoch junior a mafia godfather. People starve in Africa. And which of these is the hot news in the North East? Pete Sixsmith is up on his Soapbox to fulminate …

Well, I woke up this morning and I found that the world had not come to an end.

Outside the gates of Sixsmith Towers, people made their way to work, Arriva buses ran late and the cat demanded to be fed every 40 minutes.

Everywhere else, the threatened collapse of the eurozone dominated the national news agenda. But not if you lived in the goldfish bowl known as the North East, because the euro crisis, Murdoch’s attempts to flannel his way round a Select Committee and the idiocy of the Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, were all shoehorned out of the way by the devastating news that St James’ Park is no more.

We had 18 minutes of it on BBC Look North last night. Interviews, with people shopping, interviews with Fat Freddie, interviews with John Hall outside his stately home at Wynyard, and interviews with a man who had painted himself black and white and who was carrying a piece of cardboard that carried that immortal message beloved by all those of a Magpie persuasion “Sack The Board” (at least it wasn’t “Sack the Borde – ed). I am sure there are babies in Byker who utter this as their first words, closely followed by “Gi us a tab”.

Anyone would have thought that Armageddon was just around the corner. Instead, we heard the usual slew of fanzine editors saying that the owners had shot themselves in the foot (no feet left after sacking Keegan and Hughton and overseeing a relegation). Nobody quite said “Armageddin sick of Mike Ashley” but you get my drift.

So, St James’ Park, the iconic home of the greatest underachievers in world football, is to become The Sports Direct Arena and then something else if they can flog off the naming rights. As if the majority of people in the North East care.

“It’s all about bringing more money into the club,” said the pundits. “We can raise £10m and spend it on players,” said the chairman Derek Llambias, a man as popular on Tyneside as King Herod was in the Bethlehem Maternity Ward. All of which is true and in many ways makes a lot of sense, but it cut no ice with the fans.

“It’s our spiritual home” they wailed. “It will always be St James’ Park.” And of course it will. They will continue to call it that. Signposts and Metro stations will not be changed. Nobody will refer to it by the sponsors name, which makes a sponsorship deal seem a wee bit less likely.

But what an over reaction. The ground stays where it is. The team is still Newcastle United. Presumably they will still be called The Magpies and will wear black and white stripes. Little has altered – a cosmetic name change at worst.

Instead we get a hysterical press and hysterical pseudo fans getting themselves all “upset” over a name. It’s as artificial as the row over the X Factor contestant who allegedly took drugs and was kicked off – a “career” over before it had even begun.

We lost Roker Park and moved on to a well built stadium that serves the fans well. We were upset and those of a certain age look back fondly on the old ground in a way that we can never look back at the SoL. But things change.

For Newcastle United things must always be as they were. I am sure that some of them would still prefer to be in a ground that was so decrepit that it was passed over for the 1966 World Cup in favour of Ayresome Park.

I look forward to my first visit to the Sports Direct Arena in March. By that time it may have undergone another name change. The Poundland Arena anyone?

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31 thoughts on “A Soapbox sermon to Newcastle supporters: what’s in a name?”

  1. You should take it as a compliment, marra.

    Some of us are prepared to acknowledge that intelligent life may exist south of Brockley Whins.

    And as to crap attendances – people in glass houses …..!

  2. We are obsessed with NUFC. This is a Sunderland site lads, which seems to be attracting an awful lot of postings on this thread. You couldn’t get this many in the Gallowgate when the likes of Franz Koenen were turning out for you at the old Sid James could you eh?

  3. Pride Park may be named after the industrial estate Bill and I always wonder why so many factories etc. have empty car parks on match days when it would make sense to allow visiting fans to park there. Commercially of course the fees involved would cover any expenses but that’s another issue.

    I remember many Sunderland fans not being too keen on the Stadium of Light name at the time preferring things like Monkwearmouth Stadium but we have grown used to it. Had it been called Nissan Park or Call Centre Arena when it was first built I don’t suppose we would have liked it too much but it wouldn’t have been the same as changing the name of Roker Park.

    I hate to think we might lose names such as Craven Cottage, Molineux, The Hawthorns etc whilst those grounds still exist. If the clubs move then that’s another story. After all we never lost sleep over the moves from Blue House Field or Horatio Street.

    BTW – why are there adverts for N*******e tee shirts and hoodies on a Sunderland site M. Salut?

  4. I do feel a bit sorry that they’re losing the name– it isn’t the be all and end all of the club, but it is an important part of their history. I’d have been a bit miffed it Roker Park had its name changed.

    That said, as NUFC are doing so well, the supporters calling for the board to be sacked will hush up soon, I imagine.

  5. Most Mags I know despise Mike Ashley, and if not for their unexpected league position they would be camping outside their commercially sold out ground demanding his hide over this latest demonstartation of his utter disregard for Newcastles Utd supporters feelings.

    We may have a stadium oddly named but the chairman who came up with it wanted to demonstrate a link between the club and the local people who support it.Ashley would sell his granny for an extra few quid and has absolutey no redeeeming qualities as a football chairman(or lets face it,…… as a human being) whatsoever,and I doubt there is a Mag that would say any other.

  6. Pride Park is not a good example of anything other than a ground named after the industrial estate it happens to be dumped in.

    Sunderland supporters should never forget that in naming his new ground the Stadium of Light, Bob Murray always (and publicly) had it in mind the get a sponsor’s name on the front of SoL. The fact that 14 years on SAFC have never managed to attract one speaks volumes about the commercial attractiveness of the club.

    PS I have always thought that calling a ground in Sunderland, of all places, the Stadium of Light was utterly bizarre as well as being a rip-off.

  7. This is a bigger issue for football than any rivalry, even ours.

    It’s different when there is a change of stadium and the sponsor has invested in the new ground. People will be nostalgic for the old days and will always remember e.g. Roker Park, but will appreciate that someone has given them a much better stadium and maybe deserves to put their name to it.

    But this just feels like theft. Ashley has not done anything but appropriate the cultural property and heritage of Newcastle United without contributing to the facilities, the stadium, etc. Every proper football fan should be up in arms about this kind of vandalism.

    Randy Lerner could have done this at Villa. But he has 3 golden rules of owning sports interests, the 3rd of which is “Respect the heritage.” Shame Mike Ashley is so much smaller a man than he is, apart from in the bloated corpulence stakes, of course.

  8. You are right Malcolm about the naming of new stadia , as opposed to changing the names of established ones. Excellent point.

  9. Whoops added Pride Park as an after thought – another example with SOL of a ground that was named without commercially selling off the name.

  10. There is a fundamental difference between what happened at the Stadium of Light, Pride Park, KC Stadium, Emirates, Etihad, Reebok, McAlpine, Walkers, etc. in that these were named as new grounds so that the traditional names were not being replaced.

    Of course, apart from the SOL, the above examples took advantage of that fact by deriving income from the naming rights. It is not surprising therefore that the McAlpine and the Walkers are now known as something else but you can’t blame the businessmen who run football clubs at looking at things in businesslike ways. I can’t say I approve but I can see where they are coming from. That’s the way top flight football has gone. I think it is a mistake however, to take away the old name completely.

    I can only think of the Smoggies as a team who managed to maintain a reognisable ground name whilst taking up short term naming rights to their ground. I can’t remember who sponsored it when it opened but I still know it as the Riverside.

    I don’t suppose younger supporters give a toss about what the stadium is called.

  11. I suspect an element of infiltration in these pages and on this basis i would just like to say n/castle utd are fantastic.

  12. I’m a Newcastle fan and agree with what you say, it’s a name nothing else, nobody will call it SDA and i never refer to it anyway, i don’t say i’m off tp st.james’ at the weekend i say i’m going the match or i’m off up to the ground when in town.
    People moaning about a name change, uproar when John Hall wanted to move to anew site, it’s our history, this history bothered less than 15,000 a week before kk took over.
    Football changes new grounds with new names, sponsorship deals names on shirts, squad numbers, friday night , monday night sunday afternoon, early saturday, tea time saturday ko’s, 39th game talk, teams full of foreigners, foreign owners, sky tv running the game, fourth officials, goal line technology,CL, all chnages in my time of going to football, got to go with the times like it or not.
    to many moan about Ashley, he got rid of the leeches at nufc, owen, duff, viduka and the likes, and their unjustified salaries, got rid of the trouble makers and serial tweeters, he gave the fans kk again who spat his dummy out once more, he gave the fans shearer who had the job of moving us up 1 place to catch the mighty Hull City and failed, he bankrolled our promotion , paid off the debts froze season ticket prices, has a young vibrant team sitting third in the league with money in the bank and the fans, the majoraty of who didn’t go when i started in the 80’s moan about a f****** name change!
    grow up you ungrateful ******

  13. It NUFC were moving to a new stadium, I could understand a revenue-generating name change. This just smacks of greed .
    It will be a great day when Mike Ashley sells up and ships out.

    As for stadium names…….

    Stadium Of Light ??

    Not exactly great, is it ???

  14. I am sorry Skunks United. this predisposition you lot have with your own self importance amazes me. We are Champions, Euro Conquerers, Big team, sleeping giant, Yeh Right lardy dar.
    The simple fact is we are not yet half way through the season and your spouting about taking on Europe. Its not a sprint and when the end of the season comes we shall see where we are. Yes, you got off to a great start (all credit) but wait until ASDA (Ashleys Sports Direct Arena) has its New Year Sale. You have to ask ‘Who will be left to conquer Europe?’
    Is there anything left for you to sell off? …..Loyalty I suppose, maybe that is why so many of you feel you need to validate your support by joining us at Salut Sunderland (again Welcome). Or then again the so called unwavering support actually needs to be shouted from other sites in order to convince yourselves you still have something left to support.

  15. Only 4 minutes tonight. Clearly there was something more important happening in the North East that attracted the attention of the Newcastle based media.
    I don’t think that I’m in the least bit obsessed with Newcastle United. Sunderland yes, but there are whole days that go by without me thinking about the state of the drains at St Jam – sorry, The Sports Direct Arena.
    The point is that every time anything happens there is a hysterical over reaction to it. It doesn’t matter what Ashley and his crew do, if the fans want to call it St James’Park, they will.
    I am a long standing supporter of Leeds RLFC (first game seen 1957 with dad and grandad) and when I go now I watch Leeds at Headingley not the Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie.
    And yes, it is a welcome distraction from our current playing malaise, but I have rather enjoyed watching the Mags make an exhibition of themselves again. It reet warms the heart!!

  16. I disagree and have some sympathy with my Geordie neighbours, and I mean that literally as I am in exile amongst them. I think the renaming of Roker Park as the SoL is very different. The name isn’t a commercial brand, and it has a dignity and appropriate tone about it, even if it wouldnt have been my personal choice. Football is about history, identity and belonging and to rename St James Park in this crass, commercial and lets face it, tasteless way, is something that should be resisted by the fans. Whether the issue should have been on the national news at a time of such major economic and other crises, is another matter. Although the fan with the black and white painted face did cheer me up-you can always relay on Newcastle fans to embarrass themselves !

  17. Deluded, obsessed mackems, now theres a surprise. Do they know their club is in another relegation scrap this season (probably not) but they will know the North East top dogs are third in the league

  18. Me, a Magpie from birth 67 years ago, agreeing with every word? Never thought I’d see the day! What a stupid fuss over nothing! “A rose by any other name, etc” What matters is what happens on the pitch, but some blockheads care more about Ashley’s back pocket. If we do manage to get good money from sponsors, that has to be good. Ashley recoups his investment that bit quicker, and the PLC becomes that bit more attractive to a new owner, or we actually get a new no.9… And we all agree that the ground will still be called SJP. So why all the frothing at the mouth by jumped-up politicians, has-beens like that wally Barton?

  19. I went down to Sports Direct Infirmary ,my baby there she lay…………………
    …………………………………………..I,ve got the Sports Direct Infirmary blues.

    You know the tune.

  20. Obsessed indeed UTD. But then I guess looking up the road at what we are doing depressed them so much that they have to cling to the slightest chunk of light in what is a very dull season on wearyside to date. When it came to stadium names worthy of immense p*** taking, I thought Sir Bob Murray patented that one. The SDA is a brand name. That could change in time. SJP will always live on. Just as the Stadium of S**** will. God bless you all, enjoy your week in the sun.

  21. Froggie Mate – Thanks for the welcome but I’ve been here before….
    If you had read on…you will have seen that I gave the example of “singing about us even when we’re not playing you”

    If that isn’t obsession, then I don’t know what is!

    ob·ses·sion? ?[uhb-sesh-uhn] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
    2.
    the idea, image, desire, feeling, etc., itself.
    3.
    the state of being obsessed.
    4.
    the act of obsessing.

  22. @UTD111 Quote; ‘but I know about Mackem Fans obsesion with all things NUFC’. On Salut Sunderland. Duuuuur!!!!!!!
    Tell me who is obsessed? I admit its not worth reading anything about the Skunks, so welcome to Salut Sunderland.

  23. On a much more serious point….
    You’re not going to sack Agent Bruce are you? He’s doing such a fine job….not yet achieving the success of Agent McMenemy – but there’s time for him to emulate Sir Lawrie yet….
    And what are you doing about all of those empty seats at your “Stadium” – I have to say I find it embarrassing when you’re on the telly and we witness people having to walk 30 yards to speak to the person sitting (ahem) next to them.

  24. Witty, reasoned and even combative comments from Newcastle supporters are always welcome. I ask only for normal rules of civilised debate to be respected (by SAFC supporters as well as any other). If you happen to find your comment has not been published, there may be the hint of an explanation in the last sentence.

  25. If I was one of you guys I’d be more worried about getting relegated than what is happening at the 3rd top team in the EPL

  26. Speculation over what corporations may name football stadia in the future could be very amusing. I look forward to attending matches at The Poundland Arena and The Catalogue Shop Stadium.

  27. Pete
    Your concern is touching. I can understand your somewhat forced viewpoint – although you did lose control from time to time eg “the greatest under achievers in world football (pot kettle black calling?) – “Byker Babies” etc etc – I could of course respond with the keys, Greggs Pastie Babies and Shell Suit Mackem jibes but I won’t.
    Sorry you had to sit through 18 minutes of news from the Regional Capital last night – You could actually have tuned to another station of course, but I know about Mackem Fans obsesion with all things NUFC – why you lot even sing about us when we’re not even playing you. Envy can be so corrosive, take care.

  28. Come on! Get Serious, A large food chain will not allow Sid James Park to plagiarise its name. Associated Dairies will be up in arms. ASDA is their trade name last time I looked, ASDA 2 (Ashleys Sports Direct Arena) is just not on.
    As for the sell off giving revenue to buy players. its Ashleys club, Ashleys Sports firm and Ashley who robbed the club of the money he raked in for the sale of players. Duuuur! Even the dumbest skunk can not fail to see its another kick in the teeth by the money grabber.
    You really have to feel for them. The iconic name is worth more than 10 million. You do have to wonder though! Is Ashley a Makem.

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