Although I had stopped short of being an apologist for MA, about two weeks ago I tried to recognize the good things that the regime had done in the lead in to this season (and even into) while wondering if January would be the lithmus for what they actually plan. There are rumblings from Newcastle today (tonight over there) that the regime are on the verge of destroying all of the good moves that they had made up to this point. There are reports of an embargoed press release that is currently in the hands of the press in England but which will not be revealed until tomorrow-- and that the topic of the release is said to be that there is an impending name change for Newcastle United's ground. . . allegedly to Sports Direct Arena.
Recent signage has been installed with the name sportsdirect.com @ St. James' Park, which makes the timing of such a move a little odd. . . and St. James' status as an Olympic venue for the 2012 Games would apparently preclude such a naming move, but nonetheless, the word is flying over Tyneside, and reaction is not positive.
I had noticed during the broadcast of the Everton game on ESPN this past weekend that every. single. camera view had sportsdirect.com prominently featured, from the signage on the East Stand on all wide shots to the framing of heads for on-field interviews (in one ear, out the other?), you can't miss it. Why, then, make such a move? One can hardly figure that it is a way for Mike Ashley to infuse further cash into the club. Let us not forget that there is still some £25 million (give or take) remaining to be spent from the sale of the previous number 9 shirt.
One can hope that there is a certain misunderstanding that is coming about from partial information being leaked. One can also hope that, regardless what Mike Ashley says, the ground continues to be called St. James' Park by all who do the calling [case study: Denver Broncos (spit) new digs some years back was to be called Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. . . I don't know of anyone that calls it that to this day. I still consider it Mile High]. And as I'm typing and checking the latest that pops up on Twitter, there comes this, a rather elegant forgery if it is indeed one.
And that may just be that. The justification seems to be creating an extra £8-10m "to be invested back into the club". . . heard that before? The Northern Rock jersey sponsorship runs out at the end of this season, and the hope, according to the article in the link, is that a combo shirt/stadium deal will be reached with whomever comes next. In the meantime, sportsdirect is more than happy to step into the void and show big-spending companies how it can be accomplished. It has been asked to the ether "If there needs to be an iterim name on the stadium, why not the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Arena?" . . . and I'm inclined to agree. Change will happen, and it is almost never popular, especially when you're dealing with 119 years of history. I don't hate change. I question this particular change in this particular manner. There were ways to do it in a way that would not have drawn the ire of the Toon Army (one has to say that invoking the name of Wor Sir Bobby would have been a masterstroke) or it could have just been announced that St. James' Park would be renamed following the season and skipping the sportsdirect logo-feces in the interim. Based on moves made over the summer and up to this point in the season, you would have thought any of those options would have been investigated. Now, however, my hope that we would come out of January having given as good as we got has taken a small dent. Will it be back to the same old same old?