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Mar 2, 2013

Sunderland mulling naming rights sale

Sunderland would be open to selling the naming rights to the Stadium of Light in a bid to increase revenue streams, according to the club's chief executive.

Sunderland moved into their current home in 1997, following a 100-year stay at nearby Roker Park.

Keen to see the club turn a profit and bring European football to Wearside, chief executive Margaret Byrne said it was an option but would only agree to a deal that felt right after saying there has already been substantial interest.

"I think you have be open-minded. I think you have to keep all the options open," Byrne told the Journal. "But, at the same time, you're not just going to put a name on the stadium that doesn't fit or it's not the right name.

"It's slightly different here because it's a new stadium. It would be different if it was Roker Park. It would be a bit more emotive. But we need to be more open-minded; at the back of your head you think the reason this money is coming in is for player purchases.

"There's been lots of interest, but nothing that has yet made Ellis as an owner or the board think 'This is worth taking forward'. There's always offers. Everything that we stand for and everything that we're about, the brand would have to fit in to that. It's not just about a cheque, if it was we could have sold it four times over."

Sunderland's European ambitions are ambitious given the club is embroiled in a relegation fight, but Byrne insists that progress is being made on and off the pitch.

She added: "There's still lots of players from previous regimes here on contracts that he's trying to make better players or to bring in to his style of football. That's a process and, like with any manager, it's going to take a bit of time.

"He's been here over a year now. The ultimate aim is to play European football. That is what Martin wants to do and that focus hasn't changed. We need to get a few results under our belt and then push on to next season.

With a series of new sponsorship drives including 'Invest in Africa', Byrne also revealed the club are attempting to raise funds through a variety of different avenues, which she believes will also see an increase in profile.

"Off the pitch we've made massive strides as well. It's really, really important that we get our revenues up from all different angles, from things like having the concerts and 1879, the new events management company.

"We're looking at things like trying to get new sponsorship and initiatives in Africa, it's all about raising revenue and the club's profile, which go hand in hand."

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