These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Grounds For Complaint

Published in the Slough Town programme v Northwood Ryman Premier League 23rd April 2005

I must admit I wasn’t that surprised when I read last week that a club had decided to change the name of their ground to the "The Victor Gladwish Stadium." Yep, that’s what Worthing’s ground is now to be known as, in exchange for a cheque from Victor. £30,000 a year for the next five to set up a youth academy.

Gladwish appeared on the non league scene quite recently and has started to seriously splash the cash, announcing that he didn’t want to be the richest person in the cemetery. All well and good, but the blokes ego seems to be seriously in need of deflating and you can’t open the Non League Paper without having to look at his mug. Recently he withdrew support for Crawley Town after they didn’t display Gladwish signs prominently enough for the Sky TV cameras. Early in the season he pulled the plug from a small Sussex County league team. The clubs secretary unfortunately pressed reply rather than forward, after typing ‘another bloody email from Gladwish’ (or some other choice words!) And if he changes all the ground names of all the teams he sponsors there’s going to be 90 (yes, ninety!) Victor bloody Gladwish Stadiums around the country.

Now I don’t walk around with a sandwich board saying how much I’d donated to the tsunami appeal or whatever, and his good deeds saying he just loves non league seem to come with a cost – advertise my company or else. It also worries me that a man whose business is land sales is cuddling up to so many football clubs. As his companies sales pitch goes "It is difficult to find land these days. Gladwish Land Sales Ltd was set up in 1987 to enable people to find the plot of land that they want fast.” And after the sponsorship deal with Worthing Gladwish said “I will have first refusal on the land the ground is on if they ever move away from the area and every Wednesday night from next season, I shall have use of the pitch for various games." I wonder how much Worthing Woodside Road is worth?

Re-naming (sorry ‘rebranding’) stadium after sponsors is unfortunately becoming more commonplace. So Stoke play at the Britannia, Leicester at the Walker Stadium and Arsenal are moving to the Emirates. We’ve even got Reading's Madjeski Stadium named after their chairman.

Now York City have changed the name of their home of 73 years from Bootham Crescent to KitKat Crescent. “Well, KitKat Crescent was the obvious choice of name,” City’s managing director, Jason McGill, explained. “The product is made in York, and, like our home kit, it’s red and white.” The £100,000 generated by the deal allowed City to buy back their ground, so everybody’s happy - apparently.

Thankfully sponsors don’t always get their own way. Ask any Southampton fan where the Saints play and they would say St Mary's Stadium. Or the New Dell. The stadium's proper name - the Friends Provident St Mary's - is unlikely to be mentioned. And Middlesbrough's BT Cellnet Riverside stadium - a mouthful of a name, was cut to Riverside long before the Cellnet brand ceased to exist. Sometimes it works. Bolton's association with Reebok has been successful because the company originated in the town, makes the kit and is an employer in the region. Of course some teams deserve every stupid name that can be thrown at them. MK Dons/Franchise FC play at the National Hockey Stadium, but then what have they got to do with football?

But like pub names, football stadiums have history and romance and I reckon that any tinkering with either should go before planning law. This might also protect the Rebels in the future, cos knowing our luck, Masterfoods will decide to sponsor the Rebels and we’ll end up playing at the Dog Food stadium or the Mars Bar Multiplex.

Anyway, I’m sure some of us Slough supporters will be temporarily renaming the Gladwish stadium when we travel to Worthing for the last game of the season. Now how does that song go?