Could a Virgin tycoon pop his football cherry?

Just the start?
News broke late on Wednesday afternoon that Virgin Money, the banking branch of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group empire, was set to become Newcastle United’s next shirt sponsor.

Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia – a Manchester United fan, as it happens – had this to say before she watched her team go down 3-0:

“Now that Virgin Money and Northern Rock are ‘united’ as one business, it gives us great pleasure to continue the shirt sponsorship of Newcastle United Football Club. The Northern Rock sponsorship started in 2003 and it is an important link to the North-East which we are pleased to continue. Combined with our sponsorship of the Virgin London Marathon and the Edinburgh Festival ‘Fringe on the high street’, the shirt sponsorship of Newcastle United Football Club embeds our involvement in the communities we serve.”

How long this deal was in the making, we can’t really be sure, but as soon as the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted the club didn’t hang about. A two and a half year sponsorship deal was confirmed and the lads trotted out in front of a sold out St. James’ with the Virgin Money logo ironed over the spot Northern Rock had occupied for the best part of eight years.

The first thing that came to my head upon hearing the news was Virgin = red and white, an unthinkable colour scheme for an NUFC kit for obvious reasons. The aesthetics of the new logo were soon forgotten however, and by the time Phil Jones nodded meekly into his own net to seal a fantastic win over the champions, nobody was talking about Virgin.

Except for me. Perhaps I was allowing myself to be carried away by the euphoria of the evening, but I got to thinking about the man behind the logo. Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson is, put simply, no mug. He started his first business – a magazine named ‘Student’ – when he was just 15 years of age. Since then, Branson has founded, built, bought, and sold, and his Virgin Group is today made up of over 400 companies.

Not too shabby, but is he a sports fan?

In 1996, Branson became the majority shareholder of the London Broncos Rugby League team, bringing with him a wealth of business experience and a new lease of life for the struggling club. In his three years in charge, Branson’s team managed a second placed league finish and played their way to a Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium. Despite this, attendances were moderate at best, and when they began to dwindle so did the Virgin Group’s interest in the sport. Branson sold the club to avid supporter John Hughes in 1999.

Fast forward to 2010, and Branson has decided to take another stab at the sport thing (if you can really class Formula 1 as a sport – it’s all about the fastest car, isn’t it?). Virgin Racing was founded, though the immediate impact was nothing like that which Branson experienced with his rugby league team and it was sold not long after, leaving with nothing except a rather unattractive record – the most starts (38) without having scored a single point.

But rugby is rugby, and racing is racing. Both have their fans, and I guess they can both be entertaining at times. Still, here in England they’ll be forever in the shadow of the beautiful game, both financially and in terms of interest, and Richard Branson must know this.

Is it possible that shirt sponsorship is only the beginning? After all, Llambias has said on more than one occasion that the shirt deal may well incorporate the stadium naming rights. The Virgin Money Arena? It could happen, and it may not be such a bad thing, if it brings Branson closer to the club. The fourth richest man in the country, a billionaire four times over – could he be the one to relieve Mike Ashley of the burden he purchased from Freddy Shepherd? As soon as Ashley breaks even, he’ll be looking for a buyer, and it may be that he won’t have to look very far.

Give Branson a taste of the passion that surrounds his new investment, and he might just get hooked.

About ArchieMag

26 years young. Bachelors Degree in Politics and Media Studies. Aspiring author and journo. Lived in Newcastle all my life and will live here for the rest of it. HWTL.

145 thoughts on “Could a Virgin tycoon pop his football cherry?

  1. So what is we change the name??!!! – will bring more cash into the club .. we will still call it st james anyway ..

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  2. yous lot want us to spend loads of cash on players and collo contract – WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE CLUB TO DO THAT WITH?!! SCOTCH B LOODY MIST … !!!??? MADNESS SENSELESS MADNESS

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  3. Hitman, i coined the phrase bedsheets and brickwallers and it was in response to one of our numerous regular arguments .. i know one day, you will come over to the DAAAARRRRKKK side

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  4. Big Dave, they arent bombshells, they are changes and you dont like change .. but we need to change .. we need to stop banging on about kk who didnt want to work within sensible financial constraints .. and we need to accept that we need to sell the naming rights to the club to get more cash in .. its change and its progressive and we need to embrace it

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  5. Hitman, yes .. but we over spent .. even tho we got all of that … we overspent and put ourseleves in the s hit so we didnt have any money .. if the club is run sensibly, we will have money .. but it doesnt happen immediately it takes time ..

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  6. big dave , exactly , but why dont they listen is short term good form more important than keegan shearer sjp etc and long term stability !
    100% over the line ….. they dont know how bad we can be …..agents fees and wages…. blah blah

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  7. Fa ck off, it was me mate .. ive got a grip – im not the one who cannit get over kevin keegan .. thats yee

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  8. Keith .. i reckon if you took all the s hit that decka and MA has taken you would mebs shout your mouth off n’all every now and then ..

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  9. Toonpipes – Why don’t they use some of the circa £50m income we’ve received over the last 12 months from player sales?

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  10. They have done .. didnt you notice the signing we’ve made? incredible signings that have other supposedly bigger and, probably in many if the neggers eyes, better run clubs, drooling over the players we’ve snaffled ….

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  11. I notice Bobby is on is way over to the dark side n’all .. so divent worry Hitman, he’ll hold your hand ……..

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  12. Sorry, Toonpipes, I forgot we have the most expensive collection of gold piping under the training ground pitch and we invested in a new TV for the training centre.

    Not cheap you know… 😉

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  13. Sorry but I don’t think 7th in the league & being respected once again (from a playing perspective) by ALL teams including ManU, ManC, Chelsea, Liverpool, Aresnal & Tottenham as us being a laughing stock…

    This is the best we’ve had for years on & off the field so for fooks sake enjoy it!

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  14. Ice he must have missed it as there is noway he would do that on you mate, unless he has turned on us and crossed back over to the darkside 👿

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  15. toonpipes@ , thats not really true is it now !!! 50 mill profit on player sales alone then sky money then season ticket sales then premier league money then corporate money then merchandise , your being silly , and as i have said these players are only good finds if we benifit from them not sell them on within a year , less than a month for fatty to prove me and the negs ( sensible reasonable geordies ) wrong 😉

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  16. Well they do say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and certainly the pudding is not fully cooked yet. It may turn out in the end to absolutely marvelous or it may be something none of us can swallow.

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  17. Keith I would rather be a neg than let mesel be treated like a beaten wife that keeps thinking Jabba is going to change only to get battered by him again and again, while feeding of the crumbs he throws down to ye

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  18. Stu, I doubt that will happen. Lee Clark has been on Sky Sports saying he’s not going anywhere for any price.

    ….guess I’ve heard that before though. We’ll probably see him in black and white by next weekend. 😯

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  19. …well he didn’t say that, exactly, he said ….”I know, Jordan knows, the owner knows and everyone inside the football club knows that come February 1st he will be our player.”

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  20. Jordan Rhodes – I would take him. 21 year old.

    29 goals in 22 games – granted in league 1 but scoring is obviously built in to him.

    1-3mil id take a gamble.

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  21. @big dave , exactly i would feel humiliated saying itl be ok now itl be ok now and its for the benifit of the club long term over and over again just to get booted , bollocks and spin if you ask me like .
    The youth setups great … for other clubs to benifit from !!!
    Hope it does change but i aint gana hold my breath or hang by my balls 😉

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  22. 😆 😀

    …suppose if he went anywhere Bats, we’d have to be in with a pretty good shout, with Clarky as his boss anarl that.

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  23. ….funny you should mention that Keith, I am actually suspended from my bollocks right now, got a couple of coat hangers fixed to the landing light on my staircase. It’s all part of my New Year Zen health drive. I’d recommend it. Reet, back to the meditation……..

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  24. Just got back from the pub where some little bastard found it amusing to take the piss out of my monocle, cape and riding breeches!

    Twat!!! 🙄 😯

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  25. Grif you must be on the wrong blog.
    We dont have spelling police on here.
    Its all a bit sad as you clearly understood what TP meant..
    👿

    Anyhoo good to have the same old debate on again.
    Just for the record, I dont think Branson would be interested in taking over from the Fat one. There is either no money to be made or the fans hate you for being a tight twat. I think he will just be happy having his money making business on show on our shirts for a couple years and see how that goes.

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  26. Troy – do you drive around in a big american truck by any chance? and talk like a ponce 😯

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  27. I hate Harry Redknapp, last year he courted Carroll in the press now Ba. such a shame he has dementia ,i mean how else can he of forgotten about Modric and Chelsea and all his moans of how they were tapping him up via the press. Also Karen brady need’s to keep her trap shut , not too bitter is she. Wouldn’t surprise me if Ba’s agent ain’t invovled in this s***e either.

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  28. My missus works for N Rock and met a senior exec from Virgin recently. . She pointed out the benefits of buying the naming rights then returning the name of the stadium to SJP: instant popularity in the region and the potential for £50k+ new accounts. This hadn’t occurred to the Virgin guy, who was v excited at the idea and pledged to take it back to his Board. Fingers crossed!

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  29. Stuart – I think Rhodes is an interesting one. On one hand he’s beasted Leahue One but on the other hand it is only League One. Defo deserves a shot higher up the leagues, but I haven’t seen enough of him to be able to take a guess at whether he could jump up to Premier League level straight away as that is pretty much what we need at the moment in my opinion.

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  30. The Pope….When the renaming thing first came out, I’d said it would be great if local company like Sage for example, sponsored the stadium and kept it as St James’, they could still have their name plastered all over it then everyones happy. That said I think Ashley is more than happy to keep SD all over it 🙁

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  31. Toonsy – I think your right Rhodes is playing a blinder in THAT league but it’s a world away from PL imo. At the right price defo worth a punt ,but in all seriousness we couldn’t expect him to be as prolific in PL as he is now.Also talent aside you have to consider what team he ends up at because it’s more intimidating playing infront of some crowds than others. you either freeze in fear or rise to the occasion that’s the gamble the club take. Obertan is an example of a player with potential who lacks confidence ,maybe Man utd came too early for him.

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  32. Whats all this about M O’Nelly getting manager of the month. 👿
    Bollix.
    At least Demba got player of the month (begrudgingly lol)

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  33. Well I hope its the usual kiss of death that these awards often are.
    (Not for Demba tho obviously ha ha)

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  34. Would love to see Benny start for once and he needs it to get back to his best as he does look a wee bit off the pace .Was a terrible injury ,maybe that’s why Pards so reluctant to give him 90 mins. Wouldn’t mind seeing if Obertan could play up front (Put your daggers away ,just an idea like ).

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  35. Oh and Kimtoon- Apparently Obertan feels that’s where his best position is, personally though I wouldn’t have him anywhere near a proper striking role. He might be able to pull it off in a 4-3-3 formation, but pards doesn’t seem too fond of those.

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  36. Agree HBA needs game time, but the word is he refuses to play for the ressies and AP not too happy about that.
    So I think he will have to make do with a few apps from the bench.
    Can see him banging in a t/f request come the summer.
    Just my opinion like.

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  37. Aye, but to be fair I don’t think its match fitness he needs. Sharpness maybe, but do you really pick that up from ressie matches? Your playing in games people don’t really care too much about, and against much lesser quality players. I dunno. Its not professional for him to refuse to play them, but he’s hardly going to test his abilities playing against other teams youngsters, might make him even more selfish with the ball.

    He should have been put on the wing ages ago imo, as a sub for Jonas/Obertan in matches to keep them on their toes.

    Beardsley 😆 Well obviously not now….But in the fashion of Arfa and Ba playing off Best/bambi, or maybe Arfa/Obertan playing off Ba, or just using the width like Arsenal. His finishing can’t be much worse than walcott right… 😀

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  38. The stage is set, your brand is on the kit of a famous north east club following your buy-out of a government owned bank for 3/4 of a £1,000,000,000. They beat current champions Manchester United 3-0 and are first on match of the day that same night. Hip hip hooray, for he’s a jolly good branson for he’s a jolly good branson for he’s a jolly good BraNSON and nobody can deny. Meanwhile people are starving in Timbuktu. 😕

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  39. The headline to this….

    Could a Virgin tycoon pop his football cherry?

    I take it you weren’t born when Alan Pardew was wearing a Virgin Atlantic Crystal Palace shirt in 1991 then??? 😳

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  40. …beat me to it Toons (well only by a couple of hours).

    The thing is though, as Branson’s company were Crystal Palace’s shirt sponsors in the 90s, he did also look into buying them 2 years ago. Admittedly the club was going for a lot less than ours, but I wouldn’t write him off at all. Foot in the door and all that.

    http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/streathamnews/5000086.Sir_Richard_Branson_to_look_at_buying_Crystal_Palace/

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  41. Branson won’t buy. He’s known for buying businesses on their backsides and turning them round. A la telewest/NTL or now northern rock. If he were to buy he would of when we were relagated. An entry point at a low.

    We can’t be far off breakimg even and getting round to paying billy bunter his money back. He would want a premium for the club at that point.

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