NLP Column 11th November 2016
IT’S a conundrum we’re faced with more and more. Ground re-naming; from the bet365 Stadium to the Sports Direct Arena, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place where supporters would rather stay with tradition, while the commercial bean-counters want to see make the most of the money they are pouring into the club – and the naming of the ground offers the perfect opportunity to do this.
The re-naming of grounds is big business these days. But for some supporters, it’s a big issue. Sponsored partners coming into a club and splashing their branding all over the place leaves a sour taste with the fans coming through the turnstiles.
Like it or not, sponsorship oils the wheels of the modern-day game. But if you feel uncomfortable about having your favourite place transformed into the so-and-so.com Arena, well you aren’t alone.
Selling off the naming rights doesn’t always sit easy, so when the supporters aren’t happy, what do the press do?
Clubs, of course, want the media to refer to their home by its new commercial title. They’ve just struck a deal and want everyone to know about it.
You could argue they give us access; we sell papers by being pitchside, so it’s only right we respect their wishes in copy. If a company wants to back a Non-League club in such a way, then they surely deserve their name on our pages?
It’s an awkward one from the press’ point of view as well. We’re always keen to help, but upsetting supporters by removing the historic ground name they’ve always known from their favourite paper? Now we’ve got ourselves a moral dilemma.
Some may argue us giving good coverage to clubs is enough. The media aren’t there to promote products, especially when our own commercial activity isn’t been boosted by plugging insurance companies or a well-known florist.
But with shirt sponsors’ logos and advertising hoardings seen in our pictures, are we doing enough already without risking the wrath of our readers? I think if you asked any journalist, they would rather stick to the traditions for the sake of making their copy easier to digest.
There still doesn’t seem to be a right answer. But as ground names and historic competitions become more and more barmy (the Checkatrade Trophy or the Carabao Energy Drink League Cup anyone?) the more difficult things become.
By Alex Narey