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Tottenham and Chelsea raise stakes on naming rights

TOTTENHAM Hotspur and London arch-rivals Chelsea put the issue of stadium naming rights on the agenda this week after both clubs revealed plans to tap the sponsorship market in their bid to compete.

"It's suddenly now two (Premier League) clubs in London looking for naming-rights partners and potential sponsors have got a choice. They've got two very different propositions," said Tottenham's executive director Paul Barber.

Chelsea's new chief executive Ron Gourlay said on Thursday his club were also considering selling naming rights to Stamford Bridge if the present ground name was part of the new one.

British media said the club were hoping to raise 10 million pounds (US$16.61 million) a year from a 10-15 year naming rights agreement.

Naming rights are common in the United States where they have long been a source of finance for stadiums but only a few Premier League clubs have sold off their ground name.

"In the UK, with the exception of (Arsenal's) Emirates and one or two smaller projects it's pretty unusual," said Barber. "Chelsea's announcement has created a lot more interest."

Tottenham's North London rivals moved from Highbury to their 60,355-seat Emirates Stadium in 2006, at a cost of 390 million pounds. Spurs hope a new stadium will at last help them compete on and off the pitch.

"Not every stadium in the UK is as famous as White Hart Lane or Stamford Bridge. But it (selling the name) will become more common and will be an increasing source of income. There are only so many ways you can drive new revenue."

"The great thing the Premier League gives you is the enormous exposure week after week -- an audience across the world of billions of people which is a phenomenal platform for any brand," Barber said at the Spurs training ground.

"One of the reasons we've spent a lot of time in the Middle East and Far East is there are so many brands emerging... not as famous as perhaps their competitors in Europe and the States but looking for ways of making themselves famous very quickly.

"Premier league football -- whether you are a shirt sponsor or a stadium sponsor -- gives you that opportunity."

Chelsea's Gourlay was clearly thinking about competition from ambitious teams like Spurs and Arsenal.

"What we're not prepared to happen... is allow rival clubs in England and Europe to gain a competitive advantage over us in terms of the revenue they can generate through either expanding the capacity of their existing stadium or moving to a new stadium and then invest that upside in their team or the club," he said.

"We cannot sell any more tickets to Chelsea fans as we sell out virtually every match within our limited capacity....we need to keep evolving and move the business forward to support the football side and the club generally.

"This is a potentially realistic way of doing that".

Tottenham's Barber may have welcomed Chelsea's entry into the naming-rights market but he drew a sharp distinction between what the two clubs can offer and how much it will cost.

"They've got an old, established stadium... We've got a very different, brand new state-of-the art... stadium planned which will have no history or heritage attached to it.

"Most people would probably accept that we would be looking for a premium for a brand new stadium with no name on it."

Tottenham need to pay for a new 56,250 capacity stadium next to their White Hart Lane ground, having last week submitted planning proposals with a view to moving in by 2013/14.

"We're as competitive off the pitch as we are on it," said Barber. "We've said our new stadium will be technologically and environmentally advanced. Some brands will naturally want to associate with that more than an old stadium.

"I think the market is big enough for both clubs. But of course they (Chelsea) have got the associated heritage and history of Stamford Bridge to contend with in the name.

"We've left the path clear for a sponsor to come in from day one, just as Arsenal did with The Emirates..." added Barber who said Tottenham's shirt sponsorship was also up for grabs from next season and could be sold as part of the package.


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