St James' gets Sports Direct branding

NEWCASTLE fans reacted with dismay yesterday after chairman Derek Llambias announced their historic stadium is to be re-branded as sportsdirect@St James&rsquo; Park.<br /><br />Owner Mike Ashley, who also owns the retailer Sports Direct, last week declared his intention to sell the naming rights to the club&rsquo;s home of 117 years. The change will be effective for the rest of the season, with Ashley hopeful it will help attract a sponsor for the 2010-11 campaign.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not taking away St James&rsquo; Park &ndash; we&rsquo;re just adding to it,&rdquo; Llambias said. &ldquo;We will showcase this year until the end of the season and I&rsquo;m sure we&rsquo;re going to get a sponsor in next season.&rdquo;<br /><br />Ashley is already unpopular with supporters, not least because of the club&rsquo;s relegation last season, and his latest move has fuelled frustration.<br /><br />&ldquo;The idea of turning the history of St James&rsquo; Park into something that resembles an e-mail address absolutely beggars belief,&rdquo; said Mark Jensen, editor of fanzine The Mag.<br /><br />Llambias argued that selling naming rights was &ldquo;source of revenue that has been undervalued&rdquo;. He added: &ldquo;If it brings in a good chunk of money that goes straight to the team, it&rsquo;s a revenue we should look at.&rdquo;<br /><br />Arsenal, Bolton and Wigan have all sold naming rights to their grounds.