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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Name and shame

WE all know how important sponsorship is in today’s world of professional sport.

Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson

After all, where would we be if every hotel chain, airline, brewery, money lender or doggie-mix shop didn’t have their name emblazoned across the chest of your favourite football or rugby team?

The only wonder is that the players are still managing to kiss the club badge rather than the advertising slogan that helps to pay their wages.

But while we have all managed to get used to the idea of our favourites looking like modern-day sandwich board men, there comes a time when even the most publicity-conscious owner reaches a line he knows he should not cross.

Except, of course, he does cross that line. Step forward Mike Ashley who thinks that one of the most emotive names in football, St. James’ Park, should really be called www.directsports.com stadium (or something just as ridiculous!).

Can’t you just hear all those Newcastle United fans in the pubs around Geordie-land making their match-day plans for the visit of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal to the www.sports-whatever ground?

And sorry, Furness Building Society but the home of Barrow AFC will always be Holker Street to anybody over five-years-old.

Of course there’s the Emirates, and the Reebok but they have never been anything else, so the same rules don’t apply.

And football isn’t the only sport that rips up tradition for the sake of a few extra pounds.

The powers in charge of one of rugby league’s most recognised club names – Wakefield Trinity – not only add the ridiculous Wildcats to their title, they also change the name of Belle Vue – film set for This Sporting Life – to Rapid Solutions Stadium. Unfortunately for the cash-strapped club the title has become more of a hindrance than a help ... there is no rapid solution to the stadium problem that is threatening their Super League existence.

And that isn’t the only case where, however attractive the money on offer, the thing doesn’t sit right.

For instance, how many supporters looking ahead to the Leeds Rhinos v Manly game in February will be thinking of it as the Heinz Big Soup World Club Challenge? And who remembers the year that the Challenge Cup was played under the Kelloggs Nutri-Grain banner? It could have been worse, though – inside information was that the RFL in their wisdom turned down a sponsorship offer that would have led the competition to be known – however briefly – as the Bachelors Mushy Peas Cup.

Super League still hasn’t announced its sponsor for 2012 and Carnegie are soon to off-load the Challenge Cup – proving that nothing is forever. Mike Ashley should take note the next time he visits St. James’ Park.

(Here’s your holiday quiz question: Which club, now regular visitors to Barrow, were the first in the professional game to wear a sponsors’ name across their chests? Their manager – the late Derek Dougan – was ordered by the FA to remove the advert because it broke the rules?

Answer: Kettering Town.

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