In the interview he spoke on how he has received so much abuse from Geordie ingrates that he doesn’t hear it any more, how Mike Ashley told him that he would have “a horrible job” in May 2008, just before he took over as managing director to oversee Ashley’s Sports Directification of the club, how the club spent all of the £35 million Andy Carroll money (although the club made a mighty profit of £36.731 million on player trading without amortisation in their last set of published accounts). Conn also wrote of many other things Llambias supposedly revealed to him in what is a rather fawning piece overall.
Irritatingly, for much of the “interview,” Conn give his own version of what Llambias told him, rather than just giving the quotes themselves in something which reads like a PR piece, something Llambias usually reserves for his friends at Mirror Group titles such as the Mirror, People, Chronicle and Journal. But I digress.
Anyway, as well as the above, Conn also tells us how Llambias “suggests” that he was convinced that the manager he inherited, Kevin Keegan, just wasn’t right for the “modern role” required at Newcastle United. He also recounted how Llambias told him how he was first impressed by current manager, Alan Pardew, when he used to go to watch the Silver Supremo’s West Ham when he was a Casino director in London, a time whem he also became aquainted with football svengalis such as Pini Zahavi and Kia Joorabchian, who has, allegedly, worked as an “Football Advisor” to Newcastle United, supervising the clearout of players and the aquisition of talented youth players from around the world. Although Llambias said that he had “great respect” for previous manager, Chris Hughton, obviously untrue after what he has said in another more “unofficial” interview, the football visionary claimed the credit for seeing that it was Pardew who had the “vision” they needed to “push forward”.
But one of the interesting parts which had me choking on my stotty was where Llambias gives his latest justifcation for the rename of the club’s home, St James’ Park, as the “S_____ D_____ A____.” According to the fawning Conn, Llambias understands that St James’ Park is sacred, and that no major club’s traditional home has ever had its naming rights sold. However, according to the writer, Llambias told him that he appreciates the relative poverty of many folk in the underdeveloped North East, especially in current times with so many public sector jobs being cut. So Llambias is now attempting to tie in the rename of the stadium with recent incentives on season ticket sales. Conn wrote of this:
“Of St James’ Park’s rebranding, the next big row, Llambias supplies an explanation of surprising depth. He begins with an appreciation of fans’ financial realities, rare among football executives who too often appear to think everybody is as comfortably off as them.”
Then, Conn quotes Llambias as saying:
“There is not a lot of money in the North East. The area relies heavily on public sector jobs and now the public sector is being cut.
“People in the queues were telling me they couldn’t afford it before, or that they couldn’t afford to bring their kid (it’s always a good move to bring kids in to tug on the heartstrings -wt) too. We don’t want empty seats.”
To which Conn adds:
“Seeing empty spaces at the ground, they did deals: a 10-year price freeze option, a 50% discount for the final 14 games for season ticket holders’ friends and family, interest-free payment plans.”
However if this was indeed the reason, both Llambias and Conn omitted to mention why compulsory membership, with a steeply rising fee which currently stands at £25 per annum was introduced by the club as a requirement to purchase a season ticket or even just a single away ticket, with no guarantees that the membership fee will not rise steeply again for season ticket holders who have signed up for a 10 year season ticket price freeze offer.
Llambias also persisted with the line that the rename, along with the 70+ Sports Direct signs which now decorate the stadium (and for which the club recive no money from Sports Direct International PLC), is not a vehicle to promote Ashley’s Sports Direct to a “global audience” for free, but rather, to “showcase” the sponsorship offer worldwide, saying:
“Sports Direct is being used to showcase the naming rights opportunity to a global audience. It is about being able financially to put another Yohan Cabaye on the pitch.”
However, the corporate sponsorship industry seem to be united in their agreement that the “showcase” idea will hinder, rather than help the project. Industry journal, “Sports marketing & sponsorship intelligence,” had this to say
“Arguably the most bizarre decision made by the club, however, is to brand the stadium as the Sports Direct Arena (named after Mike Ashley’s sports goods company) for a year to showcase the opportunity. What it has showcased to date is the sheer naivety of the club’s board. First, naming rights deals work over a long-term. They are not used for short-term tactical marketing or generating brand awareness but for long-term relationships and brand building.”
They also wrote much more, including how detrimental the club’s association with the Sports Direct brand has been for the Newcastle United brand, but you can read that in one of my previous pieces on the stadium renaming here.
Whatever the motivations for the rename, some of the confused and often conflicting explainations by Llambias simply beggar belief, especially the idea the the complete Sports Directification of St James’ Park, including the ghastly rename, is just a “showcase” for potential future sponsors, with no benefit whatsover to Sports Direct. I shall be revealing more on this in a future blog however. He must beleive that Geordies really are a very simple folk who are lacking in the most basic intelligence or critical faculties. But anyway, I will conclude this piece with some of the other things Llambias said on other issues in the interview.
On the insults he has received from fans: “We had so much of that, I don’t hear it any more,”
On the Andy Carroll sale to Liverpool: “They came in late, the day before deadline day [31 January 2011] which pushed the price up,” says Llambias of Liverpool’s approach. “We had no time to replace Andy, so they had to pay a premium.
“The football side [Pardew and his staff] didn’t want to sell him. But once he wanted to go, we all agreed to sell.
“We had a fan backlash, people asking where’s the money gone, saying the £35m would never be spent. Then we did spend it all.”
On Newcastle’s relegaton to the Championship: “Then you reflect on where you are. There was a responsibility for us. Failure is not a word in Mike’s vocabulary. So we decided to get back into it, and to be brave, to keep the core of the squad, add to it and try to bounce back.”
On how the club no longer have to sell players, but might anyway:
David Conn: “Llambias says they do not have to sell players this summer, although with growing interest in the flourishing players including Tioté, he will not rule changes out.”
Derek Llambias: “We will continue to follow our financial and transfer model during the summer.”
You can read the original article here.
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