After 19 long years, it’s time to say goodbye.
The Britannia Stadium, an iconic structure on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent is no more. From the 1st of June 2016, the stadium has been renamed as part of a new shirt-and-naming rights deal with the UK’s largest online gambling provider, Bet365.
Since it’s construction and opening, the 28,000-seater has always been known as the Britannia Stadium – apart from when hosting Uefa Europa League fixtures in 2011/12, where it was less affectionately known as the Stoke Stadium due to Uefa sponsorship regulations.
Despite it’s sound, there’s nothing patriotic in the title of the south-of-the-city stadium. It was named as part of a then 10-year-deal which saw local building society, Britannia, sponsor both shirts and stadium. As time wore on, the sponsor deals were renewed and retained – until the Co-Operative Bank chose to trash the Britannia identity.
That move saw Bet365 become shirt sponsors – though the stadium retained the Britannia branding, despite the club actively seeking a new naming right deal.
When the new deal was announced in late-April 2016, it was met with derision from the club’s fan base.
Does the name ‘Britannia Stadium’ really mean any more than ‘The Bet365 Stadium’?
The stadium doesn’t yet have the same stature in the club’s history as The Victoria Ground or Sweetings Field – yet the sponsored original name is likely to be remembered long after Bet365 or any other subsequent sponsor is found for it.
But the stadium will be remembered for it’s good – and bad – days.
The club were relegated the first season it played at the stadium. We faced heavy defeats to Birmingham City and Liverpool, and were embarrassed by non-league opposition on a number of occasions.
But it’s had some incredible and emotional days, too.
It’s seen Premier League, division one and division two football – all played by the Potters. It’s witnessed Europa League football with Valencia, Dynamo Kyiv, Besiktas and Maccabi Tel-Aviv all visiting. It’s hosted Conference Play-Off Finals, and an England under-21 international, as well as a number of concerts – including Jon Bon Jovi and Elton John.
It also saw Stanley Matthews’ funeral courtege visit prior to his memorial service at Stoke Minster.
Despite the name change, the memories and stories surrounding the club’s time at the stadium remain – and fans would do well to remember that. It’s not a case of moving to a new home. It’s not a scenario which sees us lose a piece of history.
It’s just good business.