At a time when transfer speculation is just about to crank up again we now face an extra dimension of rumour-mongering as the press aim to fill column inches with yet more gossip. Whether it be truth or not is irrelevant.
Anyway, the latest speculation claims that O2 are interested in securing the naming rights on the grounds that there are plans for St James’ Park to be used as a multi-purpose venue for concerts and exhibitions and so on. Similar to the O2 in London, which was formerly the Millenium Dome, it would give the Spanish owned telecoms giant a venue away from the Capital to host events in.
I guess the most notable affiliation between a football club and O2 has to be between them and Arsenal who carried the phone network on their shirts for a number of years. They also sponsored the England Rugby team and hold other current interest in sports across Europe.
They also have a penchant for acquiring naming rights. Obviously the former Millenium Dome is now called the O2 Arena and all of the little Carling Academies that popped up all over the UK at one point are now called O2 Acacdemies. They also acquired the naming rights to the Sazka Arena in the Czech Republic, which now has the official name of the O2 Arena.
Having waffled on for a bit about O2 you could come to the conclusion that I’d be happy to have our historic ground emblazoned with O2 logos everywhere. I would, but only because it would get rid of the Sports Direct name and signage that we are “temporarily” carrying. In reality it’s like choosing which testicle to cut off as I’d quite like to keep both, with both being the name St James’ Park.
However there is a sense of apathy amongst fans. I’m just as annoyed as the next person but in reality there is very little that can be done. Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias have never listened to the fans before so why would they start now? The naming issue is just another episode of that particular ignorance.
They say this is being done for commercial purposes which I don’t think is the major issue here. Instead the suspicion is that we’ll never see a company like O2 sponsor and will be left with Sports Direct emblazoned all over the place. That doesn’t bother me either, but what does is knowing that it’s likely to be of no benefit to the club if stays that way.
The only way they (Ashley and Llambias) will ever get fans to at least tolerate a name change is if it’s clear that it is benefiting the club. We’d more than likely not see any of the cash as history suggests that it gets spent somewhere without us, as fans, noticing it. But it would soften the blow knowing that it’s being paid for and knowing that it’s being put to good use.
Besides, whatever the signs say, it’s still St James’ Park, and always will be!