And so it turns out to be true after all, although only partially in comparison to what was being reported a few days back.
Newcastle United and “digital finance” company Wonga have agreed a four-year deal which will make the payday lender the lead commercial sponsor of the club.
That part is being reported on the official club website, but the part that isn’t may be of the most interest to you. According to the yellow “breaking news” bar on Sky Sports News and Lee Ryder on Twitter, it appears that Wonga have also agreed to buy the stadium naming rights and have chosen to officially rename the ground…. St James’ Park.
In addition to this it has also become apparent that Wonga will invest money into our youth academy and also into the Newcastle United Foundation Enterprise Scheme which gives youngsters aged 15-16 the skills to find employment through course and initiatives ran by United.
It certainly appears that Wonga are keen to get the fans on side and they haven’t done a bad job of that to start with. Of course to us fans it’s always been St James’ Park, but to now have it back officially and remove any possibility of it being called the Sports Direct Arena again is fantastic. The other initiatives stated by Wonga include setting up a fans forum for discussing ideas of fan involvement in the club, and also getting fans involved in the design of the shirts.
However it isn’t all sweetness and light as far as I’m concerned. I’m not overly happy that we now carry the name of a company that basically extorts people with eye watering interest rates. Granted Richard Branson is no different, but at least he doesn’t charge over 4,000% or whatever it is Wonga charge. Mind you, St Branson has been nudging the interest rate on my Virgin credit card up and up and up for the last couple of years…
On the other hand, Wonga are just offering a service. An extremely expensive service all the same, but all charges and other associated stuff such as interest rates are demonstrated BEFORE anything is agreed. Is it their fault that people then still choose to use their service?
This whole thing has been played very smartly, from both the club and Wonga. Right now they appear to be the shining knights in all of this whilst also paying for a stadium that was pretty much always referred to as St James’ Park anyway. The devil is in the detail however and I’d be interested to see how much the club are receiving for this. Rumours suggest the deal is worth £8m a season but we’ll see I guess.
What do you make of it all?