Derek Llambias has spoken publicly on the rather thorny issue of naming rights and the renaming of St James’ Park today, and he has admitted that both he and Mike Ashley both still call it St James’ Park.
Speaking after the release of what can only be described as a positive set of results, Llambias spoke about a vast range of subjects in an exclusive interview for the Daily Mirror.
It was quite refreshing in truth. I don’t have an awful lot of time for Derek Llambias but it’s hard to be critical when you look at what he says. Everything does seem to have a reason but I can’t help but feel that if those reasons were explained at the time then they may well have avoided some of the situations that fan and board have found themselves in previously.
We’ll start off with naming rights as Llambias shed some light on the decision to officially change the name of the ground.
“Do you think me and Mike call it the Sports Direct Arena? We call it St James’ Park, because it is St James’ Park,” said Llambias.
“The naming rights is such a passionate thing. It’s not about being disrespectful or taking away the tradition or the history of the club – it’s about trying to get another Yohan Cabaye out there on the pitch. That’s how we see it.”
“To optimise our commercial side, we needed to get that in there – other clubs do it.”
“We’ve had to take the criticism on the nose. We’re not riding roughshod over people’s love. People come to see our players on the pitch. It’s about us, the fans, the manager, the players and the region – it’s an emotional thing.”
“If we wanted to ride roughshod, we’d just put the ticket prices up. That’s not happening.”
“We know we’ve got a huge responsibility, and we know there’s a lot of emotion involved and we are emotional people, too. We are not being disrespectful. Mike and I understand and feel for it.”
“The only area of income we can really build is the commercial revenue. We don’t want to put ticket prices up. We have a 10-year ticket deal and now we’ve announced a nine-year deal.”
“We’ve increased our family area to 7,500 and for an adult and a kid it’s 500 quid a year. We’re trying to fill the stadium at a price we can afford. We can’t have it half-full, because we’d lose that spirit.”
“There are only a few ways to increase our income. We know the naming rights is contentious, but that income is something we need.”
Llambias then went on to explain what sort of vision he had or the stadium and what he is looking for from a sponsor whilst almost trying to vindicate the vast array of Sports Direct signs we have plastered all over the place.
“Could our stadium be the O2 Arena of the north? I think it could. It’s already a cathedral, but it’s dead in the summer. There are things the club can expand on, but we are limited.”
“Sports Direct is showcasing the naming rights, but without Sports Direct we would not be in Newcastle. That is the business that gives Mike the power to do what we’re doing, and the power to put £270m of his own money behind the football club.”
“We’d have loved someone to come along and say, ‘We’re going to give you the money for the shirt sponsorship and the stadium,’ but unfortunately it didn’t happen like that.”
“If we lose on a Saturday, my wife just leaves me alone in the next room and Mike sulks in his house. That’s what happens when you get involved in something when you start to run and love a team and all the functions of our club.”
“We just feel it’s for the good of our club going forward and it could give us another player.”
I’ve just looked at the word count of this article and I think the other stuff needs splitting and put into a different one or else we’ll be sitting here all day reading! So we’ll just deal with the naming rights for now and I’ll put the rest into the next article.
On one hand I can see what Llambias is saying, especially when it comes to calling the ground St James’ Park. It’s all it ever will be to me, in much the same way the Sir John Hall stand is still the Leazes End.
Having said that I don’t buy all this showcase malarkey and never have done. It’s free publicity which isn’t exactly free, but it feels like a cost of of Ashley fixing the finances if you know what I mean? Why else mention how much money Mike Ashley has put into the club and Sports Direct in the same sentence?
I can see the reason for it but I just think it could have been handled better. You only have to look at what other clubs bring in through sponsorship and retailing to see how far we are behind – Newcastle earn roughly £15m a year compared to Spurs who earn £50m, Chelsea who bring in £45m, Manchester City who rake in £54m and Manchester United who profit from an eye-watering £103m from their respective sponsor and retail deals.
Bringing in money makes sense, but that has never been my issue. The vast amount of fans can understand that. What they can’t understand is the benefit of advertising something or free.