Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

You All Stood Your Ground; Fans Get Their Wish as New Sponsor Restores Great Name of St James' Park

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

You All Stood Your Ground; Fans Get Their Wish as New Sponsor Restores Great Name of St James' Park

Article excerpt

THE passion of Newcastle United fans has been credited for the shock decision to rename the club's stadium St James' Park.

Controversial new sponsor Wonga is paying for naming rights, but in a surprise move it will restore 131 years of history and return the ground to its traditional title - complete with original signs.

Errol Damelin, co-founder of the payday lender, said it had been clear from the start that this was the right thing to do.

"We're football fans and we understand the legacy of that name and the passion the fans have for it and we love that passion," the 43-year-old said.

"Football in the UK is such a strong platform to have a social conversation with people. It's not just about making money and giving out loans.

"We were never interested in the naming rights for ourselves. It's not what the fans wanted and ultimately football is about them.

"For us, giving that back to fans is more important than getting our brand out there and we are on the shirt in any case.

"This is the only way fans would have gotten the name back and I'm proud to have been able to do it."

The hated Sports Direct Arena signs should be gone before the Tyne-Wear derby, at Sunderland's Stadium of Light in 11 days' time.

Former United chairman Sir John Hall said it is great that the name is back.

"The fans will be pleased," he said. "I've never been against getting sponsorship, but it's always been St James' Park and you can't do away with 100 years of history. It's hard to be against money coming in and you can't be against change, but it's important that people recognise the historic significance of the name."

Malcolm Dix, honorary vice-president of Newcastle United, said the fans deserved credit because they wouldn't give up and now the stadium is back to its "rightful name".

However, advertising inside the ground - including the pitchside hoardings - will remain emblazoned with the Sports Direct logo. …

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