The news that the club are looking to sell the naming rights to Sincil Bank has been revealed by the Echo this morning and we’re bang in the middle of the story.
Last season, as you can read in the published minutes, the Supporter’s Board was consulted on whether selling the naming rights to Sincil Bank was something we’d be against. I was one of a number of us who were wholeheartedly behind selling the name of the ground.
There are a lot of reasons why and I’ll cover them in due course, but first the story. Liam Scully, the club’s CEO, had this to say regarding the stadium name being up for sale; “We engaged in a consultation with the Supporters’ Board and presented our reasons for it and they gave their backing for us to start looking for naming rights.
“I don’t think we’ll have anything in place for next season. These things don’t happen overnight, but we’re activity exploring conversations in that area. We’re very aware of the sensitivities surrounding it and the history of Sincil Bank, but in order to compete, these are the type of things we’ve got to look at commercially going forward.”
Defending the decision to continue with the project, Liam felt he had to underline the economic importance of Sincil Bank being renamed in some way.
“You’ve got to look at the landscape. If you look around the 72 EFL clubs, there aren’t many stadiums that still carry their historic name. The majority of stadiums are now sponsored and we’ve got to activity explore that. If it’s something we don’t do, we’re activity putting ourselves at a disadvantage against our competitors.”
In terms of income it could bring in ‘six figures’ a year. That’s a nice chunk of the budget for next season.
On to why I’m behind it. Put simply, we will always play at Sincil Bank. Call it what you like; the Gelder Group Stadium (which it was for a short while, not that anyone called it that), Honest Joes Cavern of Fun, the Lincoln Tap House and Stadium, whatever. I will never get up on a Saturday morning and write ‘it’s match day at the Woolworths Stadium’, it will always be Sincil Bank. Remember, this isn’t a new build like the Emirates or the Etihad, where a name is tied in and the ground’s identity is defined from the offset. We play at Sincil Bank.
It’s like this; I call my dog ‘numb-nuts’. That’s not its name, it’s just a joke he doesn’t understand that I make at his expense. Officially, on the vet’s record, he’s not called that though, he’s called Charlie. At some point in the future I’ll get bored of calling him that and move on to something amusing around the breed Shih Tzu, or maybe just a clever play on a swear word. He’ll always be called Charlie though. Always.
Once we move past the difference between ‘official name’ and ‘actual name’, there are huge benefits for the club in selling the name of the ground. Money is not in abundance. We’re not broke, but we’re going up to the next level. Those fans from the eighties will remember the calls of us ‘not being able to afford’ to go up. It was an accusation levelled at Gilbert Blades and his board, something that became a well-believed myth in later life. Throughout the nineties I recall being told the club couldn’t afford to go up. Well, we went up and guess what? It’s expensive.
Players get bonuses in their contracts, new players want an extra couple of grand to come to the club and everyone else in the playground is willing to do whatever it takes. Bury, Macclesfield, Bolton, none of these teams serve as a severe enough warning to the clubs hunting success. Sure, some cut their cloth accordingly, but how is it we’re not going to be considered to be level with Rotherham and Doncaster, two sides with similar sized grounds, crowds and history? Well, one plays at the Keepmoat Stadium, the other at the AESSEAL Stadium. Now, I know that’s not the sole reason why they’re in a better position, I understand that, but these clubs adapted. Remember when Doncaster went out of the league with poor crowds? Remember when we competed on a level playing field with the Millers? They changed and to a degree, so must we.
This won’t be the only thing that gets sold off, but I guarantee you one thing; The Stacey West Stand will always be named as such. We might be moving onwards, developing our opportunities and getting the best from the hand we’ve been dealt, but there are aspects of this club that will not be sold to the highest bidder. That name is one of them and I firmly believe at board level they’ve struck a balance between corporate opportunity and retaining the club’s history.
I do hope selling the name of the ground is not something that brings out the moaners and complainers. I spent most of last night putting together the Season Review book I put out every year and it surprised me that almost every article from Christmas onwards was defending the club. The current climate seem to be one of suspicion and doubt, fear and worry. We’ve just won the League Two title, the first we’ve won in my lifetime and for some reason there is more negativity than when we were playing away at Salisbury. I just hope people can see through the obvious and realise this move is one the club needs to make.