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Toon fans fury over stadium name change

In a statement the club say they are renaming the ground, Newcastle's home since 1892, after the name of owner Mike Ashley's company until they find a sponsor to take over the full naming rights for the stadium on a permanent basis.

In a statement on the club's website Newcastle United's managing director Derek Llambias said: "Our aim for Newcastle United is to continue to deliver success for the fans and everyone associated with the club. We must make this club financially self-sufficient in order to deliver that success.

"These are difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club. Stadium rebranding offers a lucrative way for clubs to secure significant additional income.

"Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps us to showcase the opportunity to interested parties. We are now actively seeking a long-term sponsor wishing to acquire full naming rights for the stadium."

Owner Ashley has been unpopular with Newcastle fans since taking over the club in 2007, but Newcastle's excellent, unbeaten start to the season which has allowed them climb to third in the Premier League table, had taken the sting out of the fans attitude towards him of late.

However, the move has re-ignited the animosity with fans scathing towards him on Newcastle message boards.

England cricketer Steve Harmison, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said: "Of all the things Mike Ashley has done since he became owner, I think this is the one people will find hardest to forgive and forget.

"I can only liken it to changing the team's colours from black and white to red and white and making us look like Sunderland.

"That's how big a deal it is. You do wonder whether they would do that if the money was right.

"St James' Park means everything to me, it is a magical place. It is a special place for every single Newcastle United fan. Players come and go, managers come and go but Newcastle United and St James' Park stay the same."