Toon to get St James' Park back
Newcastle will play their home games at St James' Park once again after payday loans company wonga.com snapped up the naming rights to the stadium.
The Magpies on Tuesday announced a four-year sponsorship deal with Wonga which will see the company's logo worn on their shirts from next season and £1.5million ploughed into the club's Academy and the Newcastle United Foundation Enterprise Scheme.
However, they left it to their new sponsors to reveal that they had also bought the naming rights to the 52,000-capacity stadium and, having listened to the reaction of fans when news of a potential agreement emerged at the weekend, have ended a controversial period in the club's recent history.
A spokesman for Wonga said: "We listened over the last three days and we saw what really matters to the fans. Football is an emotional sport and it is obviously really important to them. We listened to what they wanted and that is why we did it."
Owner Mike Ashley sparked fury in November last year when he revealed that the name of the stadium had been changed to the Sports Direct Arena, after his sportswear company, in a bid to showcase the potential for a ground sponsor.
Managing director Derek Llambias insisted the move was born out of financial necessity and could net Newcastle up to £10million a year, although until Tuesday, they had been unable to find a buyer.
However, while the shirt sponsorship deal was expected, the company's decision to buy the naming rights came as more of a surprise, and their decision to return them to the fans could prove to be a masterstroke.
The value of the deal has not been disclosed, and nor has that of the arrangement which will see Wonga replace Virgin Money as the club's lead commercial sponsor. Wonga also has existing sponsorship deals with npower Championship Blackpool and Scottish Cup winners Hearts, and has confirmed they will continue to support both clubs.
Founder and chief executive officer Errol Damelin said: "We are really proud to be involved with Newcastle United. It is one of the biggest and most important clubs in the UK by any measure and has a fantastic following around the world.
"We are also really excited about investing in future stars both on and off the field. The Academy and the Enterprise Scheme gives us the opportunity to make a big difference."
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