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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Naming rights?? Why do we care?

Mike Ashley, Billionaire sports shop owner and comical face behind the slide of Newcastle United has gotten himself some more free publicity, by claiming he's going to sell the naming rights to St. James' Park. But it shouldn't really matter to the fans what the name of stadium is. There is no law enforcing the paying fans to use it, or like it, but the commercial partners, the official publications, the media would have to use it. But how often do journalists actually use the name of a team's stadium??

More often than not, a team plays "at home" or "away at _(insert team name)_"
Here in Melbourne, the second largest multipurpose stadium, located in the area called "Docklands", has changed names 3 times in the span of 10 years. It started out as Colonial Stadium, became Telstra Dome, and is now Etihad Stadium (which really should be Etihad Arena, which rolls off the tongue so much better). Most fans still call it Docklands Stadium, or simply "the Docklands", but the official channels are legally required to call it Etihad Stadium. But no one really cares about the name of the stadium, just the sport that goes on inside.

Just like the Arsenal fans and the London citizens no longer care about calling the Emirates' Stadium, by its temporary name, i doubt they'll care about calling it Microsoft Stadium or something else, in 10 years time. Do you think the Chelsea fans will care if Samsung, who already sponsors the shirt, does a deal to own the naming rights of the stadium for a sum of money that funds the purchase of a world class player, or helps the club increase the stadium's capacity? Samsung stadium has quite a nice ring to it, doesn't it?? If Aon were to purchase naming rights for Old Trafford, i'm sure the fans wouldn't mind the incoming cashflow if the stadium was rebadged Aon Arena.

Commercialization of stadium names needs to continue if the Premier League is to remain at the pinnacle of modern day professional club football. Clubs can no longer afford to hold onto history while they can make money selling rights. but that's not saying there is no place in sport for it, but commercialization has its advantages, and while the fans demand more prolonged periods of increasing success, they have to make sacrifices.

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