Her­itage is name of the game

Sunderland Echo - - Opinion -

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.”

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