From Narendra Modi Stadium to Fenway Park, how sporting arenas are named across the world

Over the years, India has seen numerous such examples of stadiums being named or renamed after political leaders.

FP Sports February 25, 2021 14:53:59 IST
From Narendra Modi Stadium to Fenway Park, how sporting arenas are named across the world

A general view of the Narendra Modi. AFP

With the inauguration of the revamped Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, another sporting arena in India has been added to the list of stadiums named after politicians.

In fact, the old stadium in Motera was itself named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a freedom fighter, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. But now, the Narendra Modi Stadium, the largest cricket stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 1,10,000, will be part of a bigger sporting enclave known as Sardar Patel Sports Enclave.

"This stadium was conceptualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was president of the Gujarat Cricket Association at that time," President Ram Nath Kovind said in his address after the inauguration. "We have decided to name it after the country's Prime Minister. It was Modi ji's dream project," added home minister Amit Shah, who was also present at the venue on Wednesday.

This is the second instance in recent times when a stadium has been renamed after a politician from the ruling BJP political party. Earlier, the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi was changed to Arun Jaitley Stadium. in honour of the late union minister and former DDCA president.

Over the years, the country has seen numerous such examples of stadiums being named or renamed after political leaders. A host of arenas in cities like New Delhi, Chennai, Kochi, Indore, Pune and Guwahati are named after former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. There are also stadiums named after other Congress party leaders – Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Stadium names in India and abroad

In India, the naming of the sporting arenas is usually related to politicians and administrators. They are seldom named after sportspersons. International cricket stadiums in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru are named after administrators who also served in the BCCI – Seshrao Krishnarao Wankhede, M. Chinnaswamy and MA Chidambaram.

From a geographical aspect, not many stadiums in India are named based on the place or area. Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata is a notable exception but now, it is officially known as the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan. Also, there are two stadiums in Delhi and Lucknow which are named after hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand.

Naming the stadiums after politicians could prove to be controversial. There's an ongoing uproar from opposition parties as they accuse the BJP of insulting the legacy of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel after the inception of Narendra Modi Stadium. A few months back, former cricketer and captain Bishan Singh Bedi wrote a letter to DDCA's current president Rohan Jaitley objecting to the proposal of installing a statue of Arun Jaitley at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.

He wrote, "After the Feroze Shah Kotla was named hurriedly & most undeservingly after Late Arun Jaitley my reaction then was maybe somehow good sense might prevail to keep Kotla sacrosanct.

"How wrong I was. Now I gather a statue of Late Arun Jaitley is going to be installed at the Kotla. I'm not at all enamoured with the thought of a statue of Arun Jaitley coming up at Kotla."

The naming of stadiums after prominent leaders is not a phenomenon limited to India alone. Middle East countries have many stadiums named after their monarchs and country heads. In Pakistan, the Lahore Stadium was renamed in 1974 in honour of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Names of the large stadiums in China are generally based on their geographical location. The Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed Bird's Nest was designed and constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics and it has a seating capacity of 80,000.

Naming rights

The stadium naming rights concept is notably absent in India but prevalent in other parts of the world. The is purely based on commerce, where a corporation or an entity purchases the naming rights to a facility for a given period of time. Early examples of it were seen in the United States chiefly related to Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Fenway Park has been the home for the Boston Red Sox since 1912. The stadium's owner John I Taylor also owned a realty company called 'Fenway Realty' so he considered naming the ballpark to suit the promotional needs of his other business. William Wrigley Jr, the owner of Wrigley chewing gum company and baseball side Chicago Cubs, named his team's stadium Wrigley Field in 1927.

In 2004, Emirates, the international airline, bought the naming rights for the new stadium of Premier League side Arsenal and since then their home ground is known as Emirates Stadium. The Oval, home ground of Surrey County Cricket Club, is now known as Kia Oval for sponsorship reasons. Similar examples are Staples Center in Los Angeles, Allianz Arena in Munich, and King Power Stadium in Leicester.

Buying stadium rights makes sense when there is a guarantee that the arenas will hold a reasonable number of events or matches over a period of time. It is beneficial to both the parties – with steady cash flow for authorities who maintain the stadium and in return, the corporations get their due share of promotion when stadium names are referred to during the broadcast.

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