Money and sport.
They make strange bed fellows. Indeed some funny things have happened when people start throwing money at sports stars and clubs in the name of sponsorship. Look at Epi Taione and Paddy Power in 2007. Look at Jimmy White becoming Jimmy Brown in a sponsorship deal. Naming rights are something that may become a well-debated issue soon.
It is common practice for American sports teams to name their stadia after big brands. In 1997 the NFL’s Washington Redskins moved into FedEx Field. In 2001 the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks moved into the American Airlines Center. It now looks to be catching in the UK. In England’s Premier League Arsenal moved into the Emirates in 2006. Man City renamed the City of Manchester Stadium the Etihad Stadium in July this year and a few days ago Newcastle United’s hierarchy decided to rename St. James’ Park the Sports Direct Arena.
This creates an interested question. Would this ever happen in Scottish rugby? So I asked the SRU if they would consider renaming Murrayfield…
“Scottish Rugby welcomes discussions on any potential commercial opportunity and naming rights would come into that category. However, we are not actively pursuing naming rights at the moment,” they told me officially. This is not exactly a “NO!” and seems to suggest they would at least consider any offers.
So before we all strap ourselves in, turn off our phones and stockpile snacks for a long weekend of European rugby I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for a heavily sponsored rebranding of Murrayfield? Could we ever forgive such an act?!
Since posting this the SRU have reissued me with the assurance: “Murrayfield (i.e. the name of the stadium) is very much part of the fabric of Scottish Rugby and we are very proud of it.”
So we should be. We can still explore money making options, though, and ‘A.N. Sponsor @ Murrayfield’ is not, um…eh… too hideous?