|ADAMS PARK BACK TO STAY?
(Friday 10th March 2006)
Wanderers' stadium looks likely to return to its original and spirital name of Adams Park in the summer after the Club revealed that the naming rights deal with Causeway Technologies will not be renenewed when the contract expires in June 2006. However, the debate over whether another sponsor should be allowed is set to surface again after Club MD Steve Hayes said that they were hoping to find another sponsor at some point in the future.
Steve Hayes was quoted in a statement on the official website on Friday 10th March 2006 as saying, "We won't be rushing into anything soon. We're hoping to find a new sponsor but want to ensure that whatever we agree is right for the club. Any deal that is made will be long term because as a club we don't want to be changing the name of our ground every couple of years." Hayes went on to say, "The Board has consulted with the Trusts and taken a lot of information from them, we will continue to consult going forward." The official statement goes on to conclude, 'In the meantime the Board shall be turning to both Trusts to discuss the interim name of the ground.'
The original three year deal with Causeway was struck in the summer of 2003 and has been hugely unpopular with many Wanderers supporters who believed the dismissal of the Adams Park name was the ultimate insult to the Club's most famous benefactor, Frank Adams. Chairman Ivor Beeks subsequently defended the decision, saying it was one that had not been taken lightly, adding at a Fans Forum in August 2003, "It was taken basically for financial reasons and we needed therefore to make sure that we could get through to the end of this season in particular because that is the season in front of us." Accusations of disrespect for Frank Adams were also dismissed by the Wanderers Chairman, "Anybody who says to me that I am not proud of our heritage or indeed that I'm prepared to sell our heritage doesn't really know me. I've been involved with this football club for some 15 or 16 years and over that period of time I don't believe the board of directors have made a decision which has not been responsible."
The decision was made when the Club was still a members club and although the Board didn't see fit to ask the members their views on the subject, it was a decision that ultimately split the Board. They took a majority vote to give the deal the go ahead. Alan Parry, Director at the time, went as far as to publicly criticise the deal. Parry suggested deals such as this were "interfering with the very fabric of the game", and that regulations should be brought in by the football authorities to stop renaming of stadiums following their original construction.
The poor PR surrounding the deal was not helped by the vague financial details released at the time of its announcement. It was described by Wanderers' Financial Director Rod Tomlin in June 2003 as, "worth a significant six-figure sum over the next three years". Since then it's now understood that the net payment from the sponsors was in the order of £120,000 for the three year period but at least £30,000 of this went to ground tenants London Wasps for their part in attracting the sponsors. The net result for Wanderers has been less than £30,000 of income per annum for a deal that saw the Adams Park brand take backseat while the renamed stadium did more to confuse the casual onlooker rather than increase the profile for the largely unknown Loudwater based software company. Financial observers looking to add some perspective to the income generated will point out that during the same three year period as the naming rights deal Wanderers will have clocked up losses of over £2m despite a turnover in excess of £12m while match day takings from one average League gate at Adams Park are more than Wanderers made in one year from the deal.
Dealing with the PR this time around will be just as, if not more, difficult. The Wanderers PLC Board contains Ivor Beeks and Brian Kane from the old set-up but also has representatives from both Trusts who are obliged to take on the views of their members. They have yet to offer consulation but are understood to be planning communication in the near future. Steve Hayes also claims he understands the heritage issues and has gone on record as saying that he would like to consult supporters over possible new deals. But he seems wary of certain individual's views and website polls (including the official website) that have been heavily in favour of a retaining the Adams Park name, saying at a Fans Forum in September 2005, "If we'd been running the CRM system for a number of years we would have the real truth on that."
Hayes, who says he favours a longer term deal, has suggested that a 10 year deal bringing in over £1m could sway people's opinions. He added "I'd like to be able to speak to the fans to see what they actually do want. We don't have that facility at the moment and unless they get onto CRM they don't." Wanderers launched their CRM system last year but the have provided little feedback on its use or success to date. But Hayes' Utopia of a long term deal is also likely to connected with the continuation of London Wasps as tenants at the ground. The rugby side are currently contracted to stay until the end of the current season and will most likely sign a further extension until the end of the 2006/7 season while they attempt to bully through yet to be submitted plans of increasing the capacity of Adams Park from 10,000 to 15,000. COTN understands that a major supplier of rugby sportswear had been earmarked to take over the name of the stadium this summer but negotiations have been put on hold as uncertainty over Wasps' future at the home of Wycombe Wanderers continue.
The level of debate over the naming rights issue is certainly not unique to Wycombe Wanderers. Study carried out by Performance Research.com showed that while a significant number of sports fans questioned were in favour of new stadia taking on a sponsors name, less than a third were in favour of changing the name of an existing stadium. According to Mark Knight, Project Manager of Performance Research Europe, "A company which undertakes sponsorship naming of a stadium without considering the needs of the club or fans is guilty of ‘brandalism’ of the worse kind and is only going to harm their brand image. A stadium can be a national icon or community focal point, an unnecessary name change may be seen as little more than a cold-hearted attempt to buy their way into a sport they ultimately don’t understand".
Elsewhere in the commercial hot-bed of the USA the famous municipal Candlestick Park stadium in San Francisco had its name sold off in 1996 but returned to it original name when the deal expired in 2002. San Francisco Board Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, the lead opponent of the sale of naming rights to Candlestick Park commented through a press release in 2002, "I don't believe the public ever supported the practice and I am hopeful that other municipalities which are already engaged in the practice, or considering such an arrangement for the first time, take note." He added "This is a victory for the everyday citizen who let us know that some things just aren't for sale."
The statement released by the Club on Friday 10th March 2006 suggest that in the eyes of the PLC Board the Adams Park name is still very much for sale. However, it seems unlikely that any deal will be struck before the start of next season and while returning to the name 'Adams Park' will seem like a 'no-brainer' for many onlookers, the latest suggestions of using an 'interim name' while discussions over another sponsor take up are only likely to muddy the water of the debate, add to the confusion and further breakdown any degree of trust between club officials and supporters.
You can express your views to both Wycombe Wanderers' Trusts via the following e-mail links:
Wycombe Wanderers Founders Trust PLC Board rep:
Ian Mather - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Trust PLC Board rep:
Keith Blagborough - email@example.com
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