Football: Newcastle United fans vented their fury today after the club confirmed a new sponsorship deal with loan company Wonga.
In what appears to be a bid to curry favour with supporters, Wonga, who have agreed a four-year deal with the north-east outfit, said they will rename the club’s stadium St James’ Park.
The club’s ground, of which Wonga also secured naming rights, is currently known as Sports Direct Arena — a moniker which infuriated fans.
Fanzine editor Mark Jensen from www.themag.co.uk said: “fans will be over the moon that the name will be back to what it’s always been,” but, along with MPs and unions, expressed reservations about the deal. He added that “there will be mixed emotions on the subject as it’s a sad indictment of today’s society that a company like that is doing so well.”
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said the deal represented a “profit at any price” culture at the club and warned of the possible social consequences. He said: “I’m appalled and sickened that they would sign a deal with a legal loan shark.
“We see the devastating consequences of people getting into financial difficulty and we spend a lot of money each year helping people who are in debt through companies like this. It’s a sad indictment of the profit at any price culture at Newcastle United.”
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck and a season ticket holder at the club, has vowed not to step foot in the stadium. “This business makes profits off the back of deprived people who are desperate and who are the most vulnerable in society,” he said.
The Unite union, which has campaigned against legal loan sharks, said the deal was being used to “normalise legal loan sharking.”
Regional secretary Karen Reay said: “This is the day when Newcastle’s owners sold this city’s great footballing name for 30 pieces of tainted silver.”