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Nov 10, 2011

Flog on the Tyne

Newcastle United have controversially announced their ground will be known as the Sports Direct Arena with immediate effect, using owner Mike Ashley's high street brand.

Clark: All I'll ever know is St James' Park

• Llambias: New name could net £10m

The club have been looking for a sponsor for St James' Park since October 2009, and shortly afterwards renamed it the "sportsdirect.com @ St James' Park Stadium". Though it was branded as this within the ground the name was never widely used or accepted - but now they have gone a step further.

Managing director Derek Llambias is acutely aware that any potential stadium sponsor, if they are to pay a top rate, will want complete naming rights and not partial sponsorship of stands. He is hoping that by renaming the ground now it will attract an official sponsor.

Newcastle point to the sale of naming rights for Manchester City's Etihad Stadium and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in defence of their plan, but they are both either relatively new or brand new stadia with no historical or traditional weight behind them. Clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have not sold naming rights for Anfield, Old Trafford or White Hart Lane.

A statement from the club read: "Newcastle United have today announced plans to license the full naming rights to the club's stadium following consultation with international branding experts. The board are committed to generating additional commercial revenue from advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

"The original naming rights proposal, launched in November 2009, invited sponsors to link their brand to St. James' Park, but this did not prove commercially attractive. As such, the club will now seek a sponsor who will be granted full naming rights. Until such time the stadium will be renamed the Sports Direct Arena."

The move is sure to be met with substantial opposition from the Newcastle supporters and will be seen as a considerable own goal by the Ashley camp just as they were receiving support locally with the club riding high, unbeaten, in third place in the Premier League table.

Llambias said: "Our aim for Newcastle United is to continue to deliver success for the fans and everyone associated with the club. We must make this club financially self-sufficient in order to deliver that success.

"To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income. These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club.

"Stadium rebranding offers a lucrative way for clubs to secure significant additional income. When we initially launched our plans at the end of 2009, we invited sponsors to attach their brand to that of St James' Park.

"However, it has become clear that in order to make the proposition as commercially attractive as possible, a potential sponsor must be given the opportunity to fully rebrand the stadium.

"Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps up to showcase the opportunity to interested parties. We are now actively seeking a long-term sponsor wishing to acquire full naming rights for the stadium.

"Our shirt sponsorship deal with Northern Rock will also expire at the end of this season, which presents would-be sponsors with the opportunity to acquire both the naming rights and shirt sponsorship deals.''

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