Sunderland are in ‘late stage negotiations’ with a national firm over the Stadium of Light naming rights - and Charlie Methven has confirmed it WON’T be a betting or payday lender company.
News emerged earlier this week that the club was pressing ahead with plans to sell the naming rights of the home of the Black Cats in a bid to help the club become more financially sustainable.
And the Echo can now reveal that talks are at advanced stage with a national company with hopes a deal could be struck in the next three weeks.
There had been concerns from a section of fans that a betting company or payday lender could end up sponsoring the stadium but that has been ruled out.
Methven, the club’s executive director, said: “We are in late stage negotiations with a potential stadium sponsor, which is neither a betting company nor a payday lender.
“We are hopeful that those negotiations will conclude at some point in the next two or three weeks and an announcement can be made.
“Like with all commercial negotiations, it is entirely possible that they fall over at a late stage when it gets down to legal fine print, sometimes that is when significant issues may appear that one or other side can’t get over but as things stand we are reaching the conclusion of those negotiations.”
Methven wouldn’t put a figure on what the potential sponsorship deal could be worth to the club given the ongoing negotiations and commercial sensitivities, or the length of the deal, for the same reasons.
Methven said: “I can’t put a number on it, we are in negotiations and it wouldn’t be respectful or commercially sensible.
“The way in which these things are worked out can be quite complex too with all sorts of different triggers and ways in which the sum changes.
“All I can say is we were very clear from the start that it was something we wanted to do, we felt it was one of the assets that could help make the club sustainable.
“It is only part of the jigsaw. However, it is a big enough bit that unless it was going to make us significant financial difference we didn’t think it would be worth doing.
“When it comes to stadium naming rights you are giving away a bit more and you know rightly or wrongly there will be supporters who don’t like it, the fact some don’t like it means it comes
with a cost and therefore the price has to be higher.
“If we do it, then it will be and has to be the single biggest ticket item we sell in the season, bigger than any single match, other bit of sponsorship, hospitality occasion, bigger than the
revenue we get from a rock concert etc.
“It has to be something which is significant and makes a proper difference. That is where we are.
“It would need to be significantly larger per year than a front of shirt sponsorship, if the current negotiations drop to a level where that is not the case we wouldn’t go through with it.”
Methven added: “The reality is it has to be over a number of years, as a club you go into a commitment where you are saying that is what we are calling our stadium.
“You don’t want to be changing that every year, do you?"
Sunderland’s shirt sponsor is betting company BETDAQ but Methven has confirmed the company they are in talks with is not a betting firm.
Regarding payday lenders, Methven says the club took a view that wasn’t the right route to go down.
“As we have been clear from the start of our tenure, securing a sponsor for the stadium is part of the picture of making the club sustainable in the medium term,” added Methven.
“There are two sides to the coin, the financial sustainability side and the other side, a sense amongst the fans that this is their club, they have a say in the running of it and is sensitive to
them, the history and the traditions of the club.
“Hopefully the right balance of those two things is that we do have a stadium sponsor but at the same time the stadium sponsor is one fans can feel comfortable with."
He added: "We have to be very mindful of the sensitivities that surround anything we do commercially and it is pretty clear to us that any companies involved in activities that a majority of supporters would consider not to be ideal, we would have to consider that very carefully whatever the financial rewards might be.
"Betting companies fall somewhere in the middle on this one.
"Obviously we have a betting company as our shirt sponsor and we don't want to be hypocrites. I am an extremely keen horse-racing punter so I'm not going to get on my soapbox and say that betting is some deep sin.
"As for payday lenders, we have taken the view that that isn't the right move for us to make when it comes to our stadium."