Llambias: Toon rights worth £10m

The controversial decision to rebrand the stadium the Sports Direct

Arena as a pre-cursor to a full-blown ground sponsorship deal has

been attacked by fans. Supporters have used it to once again

criticise owner Mike Ashley’s running of the club but managing

director Llambias said they could not afford to pass up an

opportunity which he claims could be worth £10million a year.

“I totally respect the tradition and history of the club,” he told

BBC Radio Newcastle. “That is always going to be there. We are not

disrespecting our fans at all. “But we need to move with the times

and this is progression. We just need to make sure we give

ourselves the opportunity. “Chelsea has come out to basically say

they are going to rename their present stadium. “Now, they have a

long history as well but they have an owner who actually has more

money than God. “We can’t compare ourselves to (Roman) Abramovich.

We have not got that sort of money, so if we want to compete with

the big boys, we have to bring more money in. “We do need to go

that one step further to compete. “I would hope it would generate

between £8million and 10million a year. That would give us

another player. “The club needs to be self-sufficient and this will

help us be self-sufficient. “We have exhausted all our other

revenue streams. Retail is not good – that produces next to

nothing, quite honestly – so we need to bring in more. “We lose

Northern Rock as a sponsor this year, so it gives me a very small

window to get a new shirt sponsor and hopefully a stadium sponsor

at the same time.” The news comes with the Magpies third in the

Barclays Premier League after an 11-match unbeaten start to the

season. On the back of those performances Newcastle have, in recent

weeks, just sold a further 4,000 season tickets in a cut-price

offer. Unsurprisingly, fans are unhappy with the timing of the

announcement with Mark Jensen, editor of fanzine The Mag, saying

Ashley and Llambias have made another public relations gaffe. “What

the club has done just reinforces what everyone has thought about

them,” he said. “No matter what strides the likes of (manager) Alan

Pardew and the players might take on the pitch there is always

something from above that undermines everything. “It’s no

coincidence that they have performed a typical politician’s trick

and waited until things are going well to slip in something like

this on the back of a cut-price season ticket deal which has filled

the empty seats. It’s quite cynical. “It showed when Kevin Keegan

was here the first time as a manager that when you start a

bandwagon rolling at Newcastle like he did, it’s a pretty powerful

force. “They should have been spending these two weeks really

reinforcing the feelgood factor. “As it stands, this has brought no

extra money into the club but they have seriously annoyed a large

proportion of their fan base.” Simon Chadwick, professor of sport

business strategy at Coventry University’s Business School,

believes Newcastle will not be the last top-flight club to explore

selling stadium naming rights. “The ongoing cost pressure in wages

and transfer fees, in addition to external financial pressures,

mean it is inevitable we see more and more clubs start to do this

type of thing,” he told Press Association Sport. “It is not just

clubs that are willing to sell but brands are willing to associate

to. “Given that you have that market I think it is inevitable that

over the next five or 10 years more clubs follow this route.”