NEWCASTLE United fans were last night giving a cautious backing to the club’s controversial sponsorship with pay-day loan company Wonga.
Initial hostility to the multi-million pound link-up with the finance company eased somewhat when Wonga announced it was sponsoring Newcastle’s ground as well as the shirts, and would be re-naming it St James’ Park.
Wonga will also pay £1.5m to support the club’s academy and a social programme run by the Newcastle United Foundation.
A poll on The Journal’s website yesterday asked if the Wonga deal had become acceptable given the level of investment in the club and the decision on ground naming.
Supporters voted 59% in favour of the deal, with 41% against. The deal with Wonga, which has been criticised for its high interest rates, was roundly criticised by civic leaders, MPs and debt advice workers on Tuesday. But yesterday many fans rallied round the club.
Said one fan on The Journal site: “You’d think people were being forced to take out Wonga loans by some of the reactions.
“Just sounds like any other pawnbroker to me and less likely to get someone in debt than a credit card company or regular Provi loans.”
Fans also took to social networking site Twitter to air their views on the sponsorship deal. Newcastle United forum NUFAC fans tweeted: “Clever move from the loan sharks.
“They've paid for naming rights and instead of Wonga Park or Wonga Arena, gone for SJP. Brilliant.”
Meanwhile, Nick Brown wrote: “Absolutely love Wonga, paying us £24m for a four-year deal and changing the name back to St. James' #DealOfThe Decade?”
Other people, however, were not so keen. Ken Symon said: “Could the new Newcastle FC sponsorship deal be any Wonga than it is?”
Jamie Neave wrote: “If a Newcastle Utd fan bought a £49.99 shirt with a 30-day Wonga loan it would cost them £71.92.”
Colin Phillips added: “Not too worried about Wonga.
“Judging by past sponsors, they'll be gone soon #NewcastleBreweries #Greenalls #NTL #NorthernRock #jinxed.”
AFTER WONGA, WHERE NEXT?
NEWCASTLE University marketing expert Dr Joanna Berry said the Wonga deal suggests the club is on a slippery slope.
"They’ve gone from Sports Direct to Wonga ... where’s next?" she said.
"The message this sends out is all wrong ... money made from people that have nothing is being used to pay the salaries of footballers who earn more in a week than they do in a year.
"And the fact they’ve given back the name is also a little irrelevant.
"To true fans it was always St James’ Park anyway. I dread to think what Sunderland fans are saying.
"The deal just invites so many jokes, and while some of them are very funny, as a fan you don’t want to see your club laughed at.
"We have companies like Nissan, Procter & Gamble and Siemens who are all respected brands that are strongly embedded in the region.
"They are the sorts of companies with reputable reputations that you’d hope could have been approached.
"Maybe they were and didn’t want to get involved. Maybe that speaks for itself."