Naming rights: A black and white issue for Newcastle United and Juventus

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It must be the stripes. You look at one and more often than not think of the other. Yet besides a vaguely similar home shirt, Newcastle United and Juventus are different in almost every other way.

One is synonymous with victory, racking up more league wins than any of their domestic rivals and becoming one of the most dominant and feared sides in European football. The other is, some lower league titles and an Anglo-Italian cup victory aside, trophy-less since 1969.

While Turin's grand Old Lady is viewed as one of the most prestigious and glamorous sides in the world, Newcastle United have become renowned for spectacular collapses, kamikaze defending and some bizarre off-field incidents.

While it may be easy to draw parallels between Kevin Keegan's famous "I'd love it..." rant and Juventus legend Giovanni Trapattoni's incredible tirade against Thomas Strunz during his time at

Bayern Munich, there are in truth very few similarities between the two sides.
Indeed this season, as both enjoy superb starts to their respective league campaigns, even the reaction towards each could not be in more stark contrast.

Newcastle's incredible rise to the Premier League’s top four has generally been met with incredulity and a widespread belief it simply cannot last. Meanwhile Juve's own unbeaten march through the first ten Serie A fixtures has seen them touted as genuine title contenders, and the belief the club is 'back' after five difficult post-Calciopoli years is ever-growing.

Even the grounds the two clubs call home are almost as different as it is possible for two football stadia to be. Newcastle's reluctance to ever leave the nostalgic familiarity of St James' Park has seen the old stadium take on an increasingly lop-sided look as regular increases in capacity have been made to keep pace with the raise in demand.

In Turin, the Bianconeri moved in a brand new home ahead of the current campaign, opening the Juventus Stadium back on September 8 in a friendly against the team who gave the club it's famous colours, League One side Notts County.

It is, to provide even starker contrast to the settled-in-one-place Newcastle, Juve's eighth permanent home in their nomadic 114 year history, and is packed with every facility and convenience modern day football demands.

Yet events last week served to draw an interesting parallel between, not just these two clubs, but also those very stadia, as the increasingly frequent issue of the sale of naming rights has begun to affect both.

For Newcastle the story begins back in 2009 when they first announced plans to sell those rights. Protests over the loss of the old name - which even led to the tabling of a motion in Parliament - forced the club to clarify the move would not involve dropping the 'St James' Park' moniker. They then cited the example of ' @ St James Park' as an idea, before announcing that would indeed be the official name until a new sponsor was found.

All of which brings us to the latest development when, on November 10, the club announced the stadium was to be officially renamed "Sports Direct Arena" as a temporary measure to "showcase the sponsorship opportunity to interested parties" while the search for a buyer continued.

Sports Direct is of course, like the club itself, owned by retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley. According to him and the club, the traditional St James' Park title was not being "commercially attractive".
Juventus too are beset by similar difficulties but, as history has already shown, they are handling it in a very different manner to the Premier League side.

When unveiling the final plans for their new home, the Turin club announced it had reached a twelve year agreement with international sports rights marketing agency Sportfive, worth €75 million.

That deal saw the club sell naming rights for the stadium to Sportfive, who in turn would sell them on at a profit, with the instant payment to Juventus covering approximately 75-80% of the total cost of construction, vital in the current financial climate.

Shrouded in secrecy as the opening of the new 41,000 seater stadium approached, it wasn't until that incredible inauguration evening that it became clear a sponsor willing to meet both the asking price and strict criteria set out by the club had not been found.

The state of the Italian economy - and indeed that of the Euro Zone in general - has been blamed, but the use of Sportfive as a broker meant that this apparent failure does not affect the club in any way, their fee already paid - and indeed spent - well in advance.

Changing one's stripes may well be as impossible as the ancient proverb would lead us to believe but - especially in the case of Newcastle United and Juventus - the beast underneath can be, despite initial appearances, vastly different.