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Comment: BT Murrayfield | Sleeper deal

Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull

Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull

  • by TERRY MURDEN
 

SO NOW we must get used to calling the national rugby stadium BT Murrayfield. Or will it always be plain old Murrayfield?

BT is pumping more than £20 million into the Scottish Rugby Union over four years in a deal that includes naming rights on the venue.

This is the biggest sponsorship deal in Scottish sport, so BT has got to make it work. The partnership works at various levels of the game and the company regards it as a platform on which to build its broadband business and nascent television offering.

The headline grabber, however, is the renaming of the stadium. Will it work? Naming deals are tricky when they involve historic venues. Look at the outrage when Mike Ashley tried to rename Newcastle United’s St James’ Park home as the Sports Direct Arena, and temporarily as the unspeakably bad SportsDirect.com@StJamesPark.

The protests included criminal damage at the stadium and an early day motion in parliament.

When payday loan company Wonga acquired the rights, it replaced Virgin Money on the team shirts but reverted to the stadium’s old name. In light of wider issues over payday loan companies, this was arguably good public relations.

As Austin Houlihan, senior consultant in Deloitte’s sports business group explains, adopting a sponsor’s name works best on new venues requiring an identity. So Arsenal football club plays at the Emirates, Manchester City at the Etihad. But the addition of one word can be awkward. Glasgow’s new concert hall adjacent to the SECC is known as the Hydro, even though its proper name is the SSE Hydro.

Serco needs to turn dreams into reality

AS A one-time regular passenger on the Caledonian Sleeper, I can vouch for the benefits of a service often criticised for its creaking carriages, tight sleeping accommodation and patchy punctuality.

Yes, the facilities are dated, but the advantage of being able to walk on and off without the hassles associated with airports, arrive in London or in Scotland in time for breakfast, and still have time for dinner at either end, seems to me far more preferable than flying.

Without romanticising what could sometimes be a sleepless journey, the Sleeper offers a solution to the time-constrained traveller, though its shortcomings did make one wistful about the golden age of rail when everything seemed so much more comfortable, stylish and welcoming.

The awarding of the new franchise to Serco with its promises of new rolling stock featuring hotel-style cabins with en suite bathrooms, as well as a dining service serving Scottish produce, offers the opportunity for a return to such ideals. All it must do is deliver on those promises. Already the trade unions are unhappy, pointing to the company’s unfavourable track record (no pun intended) in delivering public services.

Serco has not had its troubles to seek. There have been scandals involving overcharging of the UK government for tagging prisoners, while its Northlink ferry service, connecting the Orkney and Shetland Islands to the mainland, has been criticised after engine failure led to a temporary suspension of the service.

However, the company successfully operates other rail franchises and is now run by the indomitable Rupert Soames, former boss of power plant company Aggreko. Like his famous grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, he will not shirk from a challenge.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1

 

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