Heritage is name of the game
Had online polls been readily available back in 1997, you’d can be sure the naming of Sunderland’s new stadium would not have produced favourable results.
Even the most ardent supporters of Sunderland’s then-chairman Bob Murray expressed dismay at his decision to name the ground the Stadium of Light.
Notwithstanding the mocking cockney rhyme and slang put downs of the club’s rivals from Tyneside, there was already a rather more famous team who played in a ground with the same name... Benfica.
At the time, Murray’s reasons for the name appeared contrived. Today, they carry weight.
The passage of time has worked in his favour.
No one bats an eyelid at the name and, as far as a new generation of supporters is concerned, the Stadium of Light is instantly associated with Sunderland rather than Benfica.
Which goes some way towards explaining why supporters today are more reluctant to give up the naming rights to their stadium for money.
An online poll we conducted attracted a hefty number of respondents, with the majority keen to retain the naming rights.
Sir Bob’s wanted the name to be an everlasting tribute to the region’s mine-workers and the city’s proud industrial heritage.
The connection with the city’s heritage has struck a chord. The link to the lifesaving Davy Lamp doesn’t sound so daft today.
Sir Bob has the last word when he says: “In an age when so many stadium names are not distinctive or where naming rights have been sold solely for commercial reasons, the name Stadium of Light remains unique and inspirational and sets Sunderland apart.”