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ANGER AS NEWCASTLE CHIEFS CHANGE STADIUM NAME

By NBF News
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NEWCASTLE (AFP) - Newcastle fans reacted angrily on Thursday after club bosses announced plans to rename St James Park in a drive to increase revenues at the high-flying Premier League club.

The Magpies are aiming to emulate other clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester City, who have both sold the naming rights to their respective stadiums in recent years to sponsors.

However Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's bid to rebrand one of the most famous grounds in English football - which has been the club's home since 1886 - triggered an outcry Thursday.

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust said news that St James' was to become the Sports Direct Arena proved fans were right to be sceptical of Ashley's stewardship of the club despite Newcastle's current high position in the table.

'This latest news about renaming the stadium to the 'Sports Direct Arena' clearly demonstrates why they are sceptical,' a statement said.

England cricketer Steve Harmison, a prominent Newcastle fan, meanwhile described the move as an 'insult' akin to changing the club's colours to those of their arch-rivals Sunderland.

'I can only liken it to changing the team's colours from black and white to red and white and making us look like Sunderland,' Harmison wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

'That's how big a deal it is. You do wonder whether they would do that if the money was right.

'St James' Park means everything to me, it is a magical place. It is a special place for every single Newcastle United fan. Players come and go, managers come and go but Newcastle United and St James' Park stay the same.'

Newcastle's board has defended the plan, which they hope will eventually tempt a major sponsor to sign a long-term deal.

Managing director Derek Llambias said the deal was essential if Newcastle were to become financially self-sufficient.

'To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income,' Llambias said.

'These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club.

'Stadium rebranding offers a lucrative way for clubs to secure significant additional income.'

Already, following the security alert, the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, it was learnt has ordered a 24 hours surveillance around all hotels that have over fifty room capacity while all public infrastructure and private recreational centres are now to be manned by plain-clothes security operatives.

A top Presidency source told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity that the different security agencies under the officer of the NSA have intensified physical security checks across the FCT and major cities across the country as well as deployment of intelligences personnel's to busy hotels and offices across the country.

Federal Government, the source said, was also discussing with border countries on the need for a mutual cooperation in dealing with the emerging security challenges along the border towns and cities within the West African sub-region.

'We are doing our best to ensure that we protect the lives and property of the citizenry and foreigners in this country', the source stated further adding that once the government puts the entire new security apparatus into use, 'you can be sure that these criminals causing so much trouble for the government will be taken care of adequately'.

The source urged Nigerians to ensure that the war on terrorism is not left for the government alone to handle.

'The fight on terrorism should be a collective one because the man or woman who has turned himself or herself into a weapon of destruction is difficult to monitor so every Nigeria should consider this fight his or her own. It must not be left for the government to fight alone,' the source appealed.

The multi-billion naira state of the art security equipment is designed to help the security services tackle emerging security challenges in the country and will serve the army, air force, navy, the state security services, SSS, the police, office of the NSA and other arms of the security services.

The project, which is coming under the National Public Security Communication System and costing the Federal Government about N10 billion, is fashioned along the line of the Global System of Telecommunications, GSM.

It was leant that the security equipment which will be principally coordinated by the office of the NSA, has installed line capacity exceeding MTN and Globacom combined and that when fully deployed, it has an excess of over one million lines