Chelsea to Consider Joining the Stadium Naming Rights Surrender

This week saw the news that Chelsea have joined Newcastle United in openly stating that they are considering selling the naming rights to one of England’s  most established stadiums.

Opening myself to accusations of being overdramatic  I believe that  if today’s announcement to tinker with the name of Stamford Bridge for commercial rights goes ahead it will be one of the biggest events in the clubs history.

My initial reaction to the announcement was one of anger, frustration and down right disbelief that Chelsea were considering becoming the next club to sell off a chunk of the clubs heritage in pursuit of commercial success. As those of you who have read my writing before may be aware I have regularly written about the mixed blessings of the commercialism of football and how in many regards it has sucked the heart from the game. On many levels  I believe that the selling of naming rights of old established stadiums follows the mantra of selling football down the river for a few bucks.

This however is where the problem lies, for a club like Chelsea the naming rights of Stamford Bridge are worth more than just small change and the more I consider both the pros and cons of the issue you can see why clubs are willing to risk angering fans and consider such landmark decisions.

Ron Gourlay the Chelsea Chief Executive justifies the decision by claiming that a failure by the club to take advantage of this opportunity would affect the clubs ability to compete:

“What we are not prepared to happen, and I am sure our fans will appreciate this, is allow our rival clubs in England and Europe to gain a competitive advantage over us in terms of the revenue they can generate through either expanding the capacity of their existing stadia or moving to a new stadium and then invest that upside in their team or the club.”

“What we are not prepared to happen, and I am sure our fans will appreciate this, is allow our rival clubs in England and Europe to gain a competitive advantage over us in terms of the revenue they can generate through either expanding the capacity of their existing stadia or moving to a new stadium and then invest that upside in their team or the club.”

Full press release.

Chelsea have stated for many years since the Abramovich takeover that break-even is the objective and with a huge wage bill to cover all possible revenue streams will be considered by the board and some would argue the potential revenue would be too much to turn down.

Interestingly Chelsea’s press release did promise the intention to keep the Stamford Bridge in the stadium name but I fail to see any name suggestions that will give the potential sponsor the maximum namecheck possible as well as keeping the fans happy and how a true compromise could be reached.

Generally the principal in English football has been mainly for new build stadiums to sell stadium naming rights notable examples include the Arsenal and Bolton,Coventry, Wigan and Reading.  This practise is generally seen as more acceptable as there is not the history attached to a previous stadium name some of which such as Chelsea’s come with over 100 years of history attached.

This leads us onto the most interesting part of the official press release in acknowledging the importance of fans what will the reaction of the Chelsea fans be?

There are already numerous facebook groups denouning today’s announcement and I cannot expect the fan in the stand to take this lying down, fans understand that in the modern game money is a factor but at what point does this stop? After the Game 39, television and naming rights fiascos i cannot believe that it will be long before the latest controversial money making scheme threatens to errode our game further.

The arguments of  money v tradition/credibility/respect will rumble on for as long as football continues to expand and I expect that this topic will be on the minds of Chelsea fans for the weeks and months to come.

The fans must be wondering for how long  they will turn on Soccer Saturday and be able to hear Jeff Stelling utter the phrase ‘now over to Stamford Bridge’ unedited without a commerciallly motivated tagline?

Written by Kristian Downer, the editor of http://www.echelseafc.com.

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8 Comments

  1. Ben Bradley 6 November, 2009
  2. Battersea Blue 6 November, 2009
  3. Jonathan Kydd 6 November, 2009
  4. Mark Galinsky 6 November, 2009
  5. Samuel Ronaldo 7 November, 2009
  6. Ramana 7 November, 2009
  7. Diavee Hossain 7 November, 2009
  8. Iskled 9 November, 2009