Newcastle United fans have welcomed the removal of Sports Direct signage at St James’ Park which marks the end of previous owner Mike Ashley’s period in charge of the Premier League club.
Newcastle were recently bought by a consortium led by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), ending 14 years during which the Sports Direct founder was a largely unpopular owner among fans.
St James’ Park featured Sports Direct branding throughout Ashley’s tenure, but the club this week began the process of removing signage bearing the company’s name. A large advertising sign for Sports Direct has been present on the lip of the roof of the Gallowgate End, visible from the pitch, since 2007.
It is hoped that all signs will be removed before Newcastle’s next home game, against Manchester City, on December 19.
Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust board member Alex Hurst said the move represented “a collective outpouring of relief and joy” for fans.
He added on social media: “It might not make sense to others, but you need to have lived the 14 years of what the signage symbolised and what that did to Newcastle and the city. It’s a good day.”
TV stars Ant and Dec were also pleased at the development.
Ashley attracted the ire of the club’s fans when it was announced in 2009 that the stadium would be known as sportsdirect.com @ St James’ Park Stadium temporarily until the end of the season with a view to attracting a venue sponsor. In November 2011, St James’ Park was officially renamed Sports Direct Arena as a temporary measure to “showcase the sponsorship opportunity to interested parties”. That name was dropped the following year.
Image: Chris Morgan / St James’ Park, view across Newcastle University to Civic Centre and beyond / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped for size