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Friday, March 9, 2012
Llambias: We still call it St James' Park

ESPNsoccernet staff

Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias has admitted he and owner Mike Ashley still call the club's ground St James' Park, rather than the Sports Direct Arena.

The pair sparked fury on Tyneside when they decided to re-name the 52,000 capacity stadium - clothing retailers Sports Direct are owned by Ashley - in a bid to attract a commercial sponsor.

Supporters were outraged at the abandonment of the name that has accompanied the stadium since it was first opened in 1892, with one Magpies fan daubing the old name back on a wall in paint after the St James' Park signage was removed several weeks ago.

Others recently brought a coffin bearing the St James' Park name to a home game, while Sports Direct hoarding at the ground was ripped off during Thursday night's reserve team draw against Sunderland.

Llambias insists he understands the frustrations at the club's decision and, a touch surprisingly, said that despite publicly backing the name change, neither he nor the owner use it.

"Naming rights is such a passionate thing, but it's not about being disrespectful or taking away the tradition or history of the club, it's about trying to get another Yohan Cabaye out there on the pitch," Llambias told The Times.

"Do you think me and Mike call it the Sports Direct Arena? We call it St James' Park, because it is St James' Park. But, to optimise our commercial side, we needed to get that in there. Other clubs do it.

"Mike is a Chelsea supporter. Everyone thinks he is a Tottenham supporter, by the way, and that upsets him. But if Stamford Bridge was changing names, he'd have a view. It will always be Stamford Bridge.

"The same goes for St James'. But we have to do our best for the club and for the people who turn up to see the games.''

The revelation comes a day after the Magpies announced an operating loss of 3.9 million, a figure which represents a massive improvement on the previous two years and a significant step towards the break-even point.

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