Is it time for Celtic to sell stadium naming rights?

Bayern Munich have the Allianz Arena, Juventus have the Juventus Allianz Stadium and Manchester City have the Etihad Stadium. So with some of the biggest club’s in European football selling the naming rights to their stadiums - why can’t Celtic take advantage of what is in effect ‘free money’?

Obviously, some clubs use the stadium naming rights to circumvent UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, but Manchester City’s ten-year sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines is reportedly worth around £300 million when it was signed in 2011. The deal includes the stadium naming rights, sponsorship of the area around the stadium, and various other aspects of Manchester City’s commercial interests.

In German Football, they have sponsored stadiums galore, from the Allianz Arena of Bayern Munich to VFB Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena to Eintracht Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena. So if it is good for the Bundesliga why shouldn’t it be good enough for Celtic?

Of course, Scottish football clubs have started dipping their toes into the world of Stadium Naming Rights with the likes of the Tony Macaroni Stadium [Livingston] and the Cannabis Oil-sponsored Hope CBD Stadium [Hamilton Accies].

There is no chance that Celtic could secure the level of multi-million pound investment that many of the EPL clubs get via such sponsorship deals, but they could certainly secure a sponsorship deal bigger than anything known to our game at the minute by allowing Celtic Park to be rebranded for a number of years.

It isn’t the first time that I have broached the subject of Stadium Naming Rights in Scottish football, I did so in a piece for my previous website [Scotzine] in 2011 and we’ve also had the furore of Mike Ashley paying a quid for Ibrox’s Stadium Naming Rights before the horde went apoplectic at the thought.

I fully expect that the rebranding of Celtic Park for commercial gain isn’t an idea that would be greatly welcomed by many Celtic fans, but the cold hard truth is that Celtic must use everything at their disposal to close the gap on the clubs in Europe, if they are to make some form of a dent in a football sense each season.

Some would think that the board had sold a piece of their soul for stadium naming rights, likewise Newcastle United fans were up in arms over Mike Ashley’s decision to rename St.James’ Park, the sportsdirect "@ St.James’ Park stadium.

To this day, United still officially play at the sportsdirect @ St. James’ Park stadium, however it is rarely called that, even in official publications – including the match programme which still refers to the ground as St. James’ Park.

And this is an example of why the stadium naming rights would be beneficial in Celtic’s case. The Newcastle model has proven that the renaming of the stadium has had little or no effect, after the initial mutiny in the terracing, the fans still refer to it as St. James’ Park.

Celtic have previously considered stadium naming rights, but to date no such plan has been forthcoming nor accepted. But if such a commercial deal was ever put on the table, which obviously would bring on criticism from the fans, it would also bring in tens of millions of pounds over a certain number of years. The deal would certainly not be in the Arsenal or the Manchester City price bracket, but it certainly would not be as little as what BT paid for sponsoring Hampden Park.

There were rumours a number of years ago that Global Sports Brand, Nike, were planning on offering Celtic a financial package that would see the club receive around £25 million, plus the money to cover the building of a new Main Stand that would have increased the stadium’s capacity to around 75,000, in exchange Nike would have the naming rights to the stadium.

This rumoured plan never materialised, however such an amount for Celtic would help the club significantly in the transfer market [if it was decided to use it for strengthening the team], cover renovation costs of the stadium, help to fund the redevelopment of Barrowfield or potentially go towards building the planned Hotel, Museum and Superstore development at Celtic Park.

The stadium may have been called ‘Nike Park, Nike Celtic Park or the Celtic Nike Arena’ or another variation if Nike had secured such a deal, but the fans would always call it Celtic Park, Paradise or Parkhead. Club merchandise and publications would obviously have referred to the stadium as Nike Celtic Park, as would the media, but the name change would not result in the ‘destroying part of the experience’ as some critics have commented on previously.

The soul of the stadium, the experience, is not in the mere name of a stadium but of the atmosphere created by the fans, by the action on the park.

Ultimately, with a turnover of over £100 million as of last year, Celtic must look for new avenues of bringing in cash to keep the club not only dominant in Scottish football but competitive in Europe, and the Stadium Naming Rights option is potentially, not only the easiest way of bringing in extra funding but also the least costly to the club.

Maybe now is the time for Celtic to make the next step up in the club’s commercial dealings.