Another day, another Chelsea controversy. Hot on the heels of the ‘noise’ surrounding Newcastle’s decision to sell naming rights to St. James’ Park, new Chelsea Chief Executive Ron Gourlay announced that Chelsea are considering something similar at Stamford Bridge.
And what outrage it has caused among many Chelsea fans. “Gourlay I swear to God you can get that idea out of your head RIGHT NOW!!!!!” was one message posted on a Chelsea facebook forum. “Sell history for money, just great”, was another. Others, including “id rather have kenyon back at least he never made a stupid comment like this” and “selling the right to the name stamford bridge is like selling john terry” sum up the widely held negative reaction to the announcement.
I expect I’ll incur the wrath of many Chelsea fans and that other well-renowned Chelsea blogs like thechelseablog might disagree with me, but I don’t share the outrage. What’s in a name, after all? Regardless of somehow appending Samsung or Adidas onto ‘Stamford Bridge’ I’ll still refer to the stadium as ‘The Bridge’ in the pub. All fans will. And will seeing the official name in the paper or on Match of the Day be that much of an embarrassment?
And I don’t buy the history argument, either. History, tradition, heritage – call it what you will – isn’t something superficial as Liverpool fans might have you believe. It’s the ‘story’ of a club, and tweaking the name of the Stadium does nothing to change that. Chelsea fans devalue our very real history by suggesting that somehow the name of the stadium defines the club’s existence.
And commercially it makes sense. Chelsea aren’t currently in a position to consider expanding Stamford Bridge or relocating, meanwhile Man Utd sell 30,000 more tickets each week, Arsenal 18,000. Spurs are probably just one of a few other clubs will have a new stadium in the next five years. Selling naming rights is just one way to help make up the shortfall and stay competitive, and it is sensible to consider it as an option. It’s not unrealistic to expect a £5m a year deal with the eventual sponsor – a sum that would very easily fund David Villa or Sergio Aguero’s wages. According to reports, Gourlay is hoping for double that figure.
Encouragingly, in making the announcement Gourlay did at least recognise the sensitivities around the decision and how fans might respond: this is no heresy or treachery. It is good news too that ‘Stamford Bridge’ will still feature in the name. It’s not so much of a sacrifice – and if it means I get to continue to watch players of the quality of Drogba, Lampard and Terry, then it’s a sacrifice that is well worth making.
What do you think of the announcement? Post a comment.