x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Renaming St James' Park could generate Newcastle £10m a year

While fans are furious, Derek Llambias, the managing director of Newcaslte United, said the club need's to be self-sufficient and it could lead to signing more players.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND // Derek Llambias, the managing director of Newcaslte United, has revealed a hugely controversial decision to sell the naming rights to St James' Park could generate up to £10 million (Dh58.3m) a year.

The Magpies announced their plans early this morning, and that in the meantime, the stadium will be known at the Sports Direct Arena.

"I would hope it would generate between £8m and £10m a year. That would give us another player," Llambias said to BBC Radio Newcastle.

"The club needs to be self-sufficient, and this will help us be self-sufficient. Yes, we do need to go that one step further to compete. Yes, we do."

Renaming the stadium sparked a predictably furious response from supporters, who were angered when potential sponsors were initially offered the chance to link their name to the stadium, as owner Mike Ashley did by calling it SportsDirect.com@St James' Park, a title which was seldom used, two years ago.

The latest move comes after the club took advice from branding experts, and Llambias is convinced it has to happen if Newcastle are to maintain pace with the English Premier League's big boys.

"We have had an exceptional year, and long may it continue, but the fans want us to buy more players.

"We need to bring in a striker in January, we will need replacements in the summer and we need to give ourselves as much as possible.

"There is no guarantee we will find a sponsor between now and then, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity and this is one.

"We have to keep going at it. We can't just say 'Oh, it hasn't worked out, let's go back to what we were'. We have to give ourselves the maximum opportunity to sell it."

The news comes with the Magpies riding high in third place in the league table and just as peace between the Ashley regime and the supporters appeared to be breaking out with manager Alan Pardew and his players having restored some of their battered pride.

Llambias admitted they were risking taking the gloss off a start to the season which has seen a further 4,000 season tickets sold in a cut-price offer in recent weeks, but insisted there was no alternative.

"I totally respect the tradition and history of the club. That is always going to be there, but we need to move with the times and this is progression," he said.

"We need to move on. We are not disrespecting our fans at all. Far from it. We are trying to make it affordable and put players on the pitch.

"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, quite honestly.

"We have been out there a long time looking. 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."

Llambias accepted that many would still always refer to the stadium as St James' Park whatever it is officially called, but reiterated that the move was vital.

"We understand that side of it, but it is the sponsor's responsibility, as well as ours, to move forward. Time will dissolve that," he said.

"The history will always be there, we just become part of the history or they become part of the history. We just need to make sure we give ourselves the opportunity.

"You know Chelsea has come out to basically say they are going to rename their present stadium. Now, they have a long history as well. If we want to compete with the big boys, we have to bring more money in."