The Rose Bowl. Sofia Gardens. Chester-Le-Street. Headingley. The Oval. What do they have in common? You may not know it but they’re all cricket grounds. But they all share something else in common – they all have bastardised corporate sponsor names that stick in my throat like a piece of semi-masticated beef gristle.
They are now as follows: The Ageas Bowl. The SWALEC Stadium. Emirates Durham ICG. Headingley Carnegie. The Kia Oval. Names as hollow as the regard that a Korean budget car manufacturer actually has for cricket.
Like most sports, cricket is going the way of football in following the scent of hard cash, which is why we have to suffer the horror of Sky’s coverage (Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Ian Ward, Nick KNight, Charles Colville).
No-one in their right mind should ever utter these names – and it was refreshing to hear a couple of England cricketers ignore Mike Atherton’s repeated trumping of ‘the Ageas Bowl’and doggedly refer to it as the Rose Bowl.
Ah, Rose Bowl. A pretty name. It was named after Hampshire’s crest and the curve of the pitch. Nice eh? Not nice enough for Belgium-Dutch multinational insurance company Ageas. If they were stump up some cash (naming rights are sold for surprisingly small amounts of money – Ageas are getting their name read out regularly by chumps like Athers on Sky; name written in national newspapers and plenty of local publicity for a measly £2m over six years) then they were damn well going to transform the club into a piece of corporate art.
Sophia Gardens was named after Sophia Rawdon-Hastings, the wife of a posh Welsh Georgian nob. So, a nice little regional, historical reference. Still, The SWALEC Stadium has a ring to it, eh?
The Oval. So named for its unusual shape – a name going back over 150 years. And, in recent years variously The Fosters Oval, AMP Oval, Brit Insurance Oval. And now named after Kia, who make cheap and utterly tedious little econoboxes. Big connection with all that South London, gas-holder, West-Indian cricket chic.
Headingley Carnegie, meanwhile, breathlessly offers sponsorship of its media centre, which is “now officially Yorkshire’s most globally viewed building” and boasts the following sponsorship opportunities on its website:
Stand Naming rights
Logo inclusion on tickets and literature
“Money can’t buy” access to players
Presence on yorkshireccc.com with 90,000 Monthly Unique Visitors
Inclusion in online newsletter
Product awareness stand/sampling opportunities at match days
Branding on the replay screen at every Yorkshire CCC fixture at Headingley Carnegie
Access to tickets
Use of facilities on non match days
Before we move on, just ponder the irony of offering corporate sponsors ‘money-can’t-buy’ access to players. That’s a special kind of bullshit, right there.
Headingley Carnegie isn’t as clear cut as the others, mind. As the ground is owned by the sports-orientated Carnegie University it gets its name on the bill. Fair enough. But renaming stands? Yeah, to hell with Verity, Wardle, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Trueman, Boycott, Close and Gough.
Make way for Stagecoach, Barclays, Sky Sports, Audi, Stella Artois and Vodaphone. Jimmy Anderson is now running in from the BP End at the Enron Bowl.
Inevitable? Maybe. Money for old rope? Certainly. But there’s something enormously dispiriting about it all. If cricket can’t hold out then sport’s doomed. Next we can probably turn to other cash-strapped edifices. The Tango Westminster Abbey. Hadrian’s Wall by G4S. The McDonalds New Forest.
It’s enough to make me weep into my Adidas handkerchief and Nestle Shreddies.