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This paper explores how the corporate (re)naming of football stadia and their urban environs is negotiated through fans’ toponymic discourses and associated commemoration. Critical toponymy research emphasises oppositional toponymic tensions between sovereign authorities and citizens, which can result in competing inscriptions of space. Adopting a quasi-ethnographic approach, we reveal a more complex picture by exploring the variegated toponymic discourses of football fans. The findings demonstrate intricate entanglements in how fans reluctantly accept a corporate stadium name, yet also actively resist it through counter-performative utterances, often imbued with commemorative intent. Alternatively, fans passively ignore a corporate stadium name, using a former toponym in quotidian and habitual speech. We conclude by considering the implications of these findings for the influence of corporate power in urban toponymic inscription.
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Social & Cultural Geography
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‘To us it’s still Boundary Park’: fan discourses on
the corporate (re)naming of football stadia
Leah Gillooly, Dominic Medway, Gary Warnaby & Stuart Roper
To cite this article: Leah Gillooly, Dominic Medway, Gary Warnaby & Stuart Roper (2021): ‘To
us it’s still Boundary Park’: fan discourses on the corporate (re)naming of football stadia, Social &
Cultural Geography, DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2021.1910990
To link to this article:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 04 Apr 2021.
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‘To us it’s still Boundary Park’: fan discourses on the corporate
(re)naming of football stadia
Leah Gillooly
, Dominic Medway
, Gary Warnaby
and Stuart Roper
Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK;
Institute of Place Management, Manchester
Metropolitan University, Manchester;
Huddersfield Business School, University of Huddersfield,
Huddersfield, UK
This paper explores how the corporate (re)naming of football stadia
and their urban environs is negotiated through fans’ toponymic
discourses and associated commemoration. Critical toponymy
research emphasises oppositional toponymic tensions between
sovereign authorities and citizens, which can result in competing
inscriptions of space. Adopting a quasi-ethnographic approach, we
reveal a more complex picture by exploring the variegated topony-
mic discourses of football fans. The ndings demonstrate intricate
entanglements in how fans reluctantly accept a corporate stadium
name, yet also actively resist it through counter-performative utter-
ances, often imbued with commemorative intent. Alternatively, fans
passively ignore a corporate stadium name, using a former toponym
in quotidian and habitual speech. We conclude by considering the
implications of these ndings for the inuence of corporate power in
urban toponymic inscription.
“Para nosotros sigue siendo Boundary Park”:
discursos de los acionados sobre la (re)
denominación corporativa de los estadios de fútbol
Este artículo explora cómo la (re) denominación corporativa de los
estadios de fútbol y sus entornos urbanos se negocia a través de los
discursos toponímicos de los acionados y la conmemoración aso-
ciada. La investigación de la toponimia crítica enfatiza las tensiones
toponímicas de oposición entre las autoridades soberanas y los ciuda-
danos, que pueden resultar en inscripciones en competencia del
espacio. Adoptando un enfoque cuasi-etnográco, revelamos una
imagen más compleja al explorar los variados discursos toponímicos
de los fanáticos del fútbol. Los hallazgos demuestran intrincados
enredos en la forma en que los fanáticos aceptan a regañadientes el
nombre de un estadio corporativo, pero también lo resisten activa-
mente a través de contra-declaraciones performativas, a menudo
imbuidas de una intención conmemorativa. Alternativamente, los
fanáticos ignoran pasivamente el nombre de un estadio corporativo,
Received 30 July 2019
Accepted 9 February 2021
Commemoration; critical
toponymy; football;
performativity; ethnography
Palabras clave
conmemoración; toponimia
crítica; fútbol;
performatividad; etnografía
Mots clefs
célébration; toponymie
critique; football;
performativité; ethnographie
CONTACT Leah Gillooly Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
Due to ethical conduct guidelines from the authors’ institutions, supporting data cannot be made openly available. To
comply with ethical approval requirements, all transcripts from message boards and group discussions will be destroyed
upon completion of the research project detailed in this article.
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
(, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any med-
ium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
utilizando un topónimo anterior en el habla cotidiana y habitual.
Concluimos considerando las implicaciones de estos hallazgos para
la inuencia del poder corporativo en la inscripción toponímica
« Pour nous, c’est toujours Boundary Park »:
commentaires de supporters sur le naming des
stades de football
Cet article étudie comment la pratique de parrainage qui consiste à
donner des noms de marque aux stades de football et à leur
environnement urbain est négociée à travers les commentaires
toponymiques des supporters et les commémorations associées.
La recherche toponymique critique met l’accent sur les tensions
toponymiques d’opposition entre les autorités souveraines et les
citoyens, qui peuvent avoir pour résultat des inscriptions spatiales
conictuelles. En adoptant une approche quasi-ethnographique,
nous révélons une réalité plus complexe avec un examen de divers
commentaires toponymiques des supporters. Les résultats
présentent des enchevêtrements compliqués dans la façon dont
les supporters acceptent à contrecœur le naming commercial du
stade, mais lui résistent aussi de manière active avec des propos
contre-performatifs, souvent imprégnés d’intentions
commémoratives. Les supporters ignorent aussi passivement le
nom de marque attribué au stade et utilisent un ancien toponyme
dans leurs conversations quotidiennes. Nous concluons en exami-
nant les implications de nos constatations pour l’inuence du par-
tenariat dans l’inscription toponymique urbaine.
1. Introduction
Football stadia and their environs have meaning within society: as meeting points for
locally embedded fan communities and sites for fans’ collective celebration and disap-
pointment over team progress (Edensor & Millington, 2010); as tourist destinations
(Ramshaw & Gammon, 2005); and potentially as a nexus for wider urban regeneration
and economic development (Bulley, 2002). Football stadia names are also toponyms
(Light & Young, 2015); and selling their naming rights to corporate sponsors renders
stadia, and the places they represent, as spatialised artefacts.
In 2019, 34 out of 92 English football league stadia bore an ocial corporate toponym
(Football Ground Guide, 2019), reecting Vuolteenaho and Kolamo's (2012) observation
that ‘English soccerscapes have been lately (re-)textualised as “landscape advertise-
ments”’ (p. 145). Such toponymic sponsorship has been articulated as ‘selling home’
(Boyd, 2000), and a form of ‘symbolic violence’ that can disenfranchise fans by ‘reprodu-
cing social inequalities and the exclusion of particular groups and stakeholders’, as well as
presenting ‘a growing threat to [the] public memory of places of many kinds’ (Light &
Young, 2015, pp. 440–441). This reects wider concerns over toponymic privatisation
within urban space (Berg, 2011; Medway & Warnaby, 2014; Rose-Redwood, 2011),
signaling an erosion of more ‘democratic’ place values, as bets the ‘corporate seduction’
(Peck & Tickell, 2002, p. 393) of neoliberal agendas.
Despite extensive research on the geographies of sport (for a multi-sport overview see
Koch, 2017; for specic US sports, see Alderman et al., 2003; Wise & Kirby, 2020), and
specically football (Baker, 2018; Conner, 2014; Lawrence, 2016), there is only limited
examination of the names of the venues in which these activities are, quite literally, played
out. In relation to football stadia naming, such work (see Church & Penny, 2013;
Vuolteenaho & Kolamo, 2012; and Medway et al., 2019, on which this paper builds) is
grounded in critical toponymy (Rose-Redwood et al., 2010). Other work within the market-
ing discipline has addressed the corporate (re)naming of sporting venues, but typically
focuses on sponsorship eectiveness (Chen & Zhang, 2011; Eddy, 2014; Haan & Shank, 2004;
Woisetschläger et al., 2014).
We move beyond this previous research by seeking to understand how the corporate
(re)naming of three English football stadia is negotiated through fan discourses. A key
question concerns the extent to which this represents a neoliberalisation of urban space
that threatens the coherence and topophilic embeddedness of football communities. Our
focus on fans is important: for them the ‘homes associated with football teams such as
stadia can be seen as spiritual... [and] signicant space[s]’ (Baker, 2018, p. 189), and as Light
and Young (2015) note, little is known about how these (re)naming practices ‘are absorbed,
consumed or resisted by fans’ (p. 440). Such enquiry also relates to ongoing debates in
critical geographies of sport – specically how ‘grassroots’ developments may ‘resist various
elements of the neoliberal, globalized sporting world’ (Jansson & Koch, 2017, p. 242).
We begin by outlining relevant critical toponymy debates, before detailing our study
context and method. Empirical ndings, relating to fan discourses of toponymic accep-
tance, resistance and persistence, and toponymic commemoration, are presented. This
reveals a complex and variable picture of toponymic utterances, which aects fan
perceptions and understandings of stadia spaces and urban environs. We conclude by
discussing implications relating to the neoliberalisation of urban space through topony-
mic commodication.
2. Relevant debates in critical toponymy
Since the early 1990s, toponymic inquiry has taken a critical turn (Berg & Vuolteenaho, 2009;
Rose-Redwood, 2011; Rose-Redwood et al., 2010). Within this work, there are three inter-
connected strands of analysis that are salient to our study: toponyms as (i) political practice,
(ii) commemorative devices, and (iii) commodied entities.
2.1 Toponyms as political practice
Critical toponymy literature suggests hegemonic actors/institutions assign toponyms to
promote ‘political legitimacy’ (Cardoso & Meijers, 2017), and/or inscribe space with socio-
political or historical values that typically support ruling elites (Azaryahu, 1996; Rose-
Redwood, 2011; Wideman & Masuda, 2018; Yeoh, 2009). For football clubs and stadia,
those elites typically comprise club owners and directors. Where corporate names are
used as toponyms, the dissemination of brand values can also be a factor motivating
their use.
However, individuals and groups can resist (or seemingly resist) toponymic imposition.
This process can be relatively passive, either by ignoring a newly imposed toponym and/
or continuing to use one assigned previously out of habit and the ‘everyday relationships’
people have with place names (Light & Young, 2014, p. 672). By contrast, resistance might
be more active, with alternative, unauthorised toponyms, or dierent pronunciations,
purposely employed and/or campaigned for (Alderman, 2002a; Azaryahu, 1996; Kearns &
Berg, 2002; Yeoh, 2009).
Alderman (2008) presents active toponymic resistance as evidence that place names
can ‘be appropriated by marginalised stakeholders who wish to have a greater voice in
determining what vision of the past is inscribed into the landscape’ (p. 197). Similarly,
Rose-Redwood (2008) argues this indicates the ‘limits of sovereign authority over regimes
of spatial inscription’ (p. 875). Thus, if toponymic inscription is a performative act by
political institutions, then active, conscious resistance constitutes an example of counter-
performativity, which ‘can also have liberating eects’ (Wideman & Masuda, 2018, p. 1).
2.2 Toponyms as commemorative devices
Toponyms can also be used as commemorative devices, involving their semantic anchoring to
the memory of a person, historical event(s), or even a previous toponym. This commemorative
functionality draws strongly on autobiographical place memories (Medway & Warnaby, 2014;
see also, Hoelscher & Alderman, 2004), which can be used by sovereign authorities to
capitalise on certain historical associations that may help embed a particular socio-political
worldview into a cityscape (Azaryahu, 1996; Yeoh, 2009). Sovereign authorities can also exert
power by deciding on the spatial extent of commemorative toponyms, ‘thereby enacting
narrow social and spatial denitions of citizenship that restructure the scale and conditions
under which one’s voice matters in place naming’ (Alderman & Inwood, 2013, p. 228).
Additionally, toponyms can be decommemorated, in an attempt to expunge events/
individuals from collective civic/national memory. For example, street names in Bucharest
commemorating a socialist past were changed by city authorities (Light & Young, 2014).
Similarly, the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow, was renamed Luzhniki
Stadium in 1992 following the collapse of communism (Lisi, 2018). However, such acts of
toponymic decommemoration relating to football stadia, or sporting venues more gen-
erally, have not attracted focused academic attention. Ocially decommemorated topo-
nyms can often remain part of everyday speech and citizens’ lexicon of place signication.
In Bucharest, therefore, socialist era street names are still used by some citizens, though
this is largely through habit rather than conscious (re)commemorative intent (Light &
Young, 2014). Clearly, toponymic commemoration is a complex issue, reecting an innate
polysemy in place naming practices and individual and societal responses to these
(Azaryahu, 2011).
2.3 Toponyms as commodied entities
Existing research has examined toponymic commodication by governments to boost
tourism spend (Shoval, 2013), and the transaction of toponymic opportunities as trade-
able commodities (Karimi, 2016; Rose-Redwood et al., 2019). Another trend is the renam-
ing of urban space for attempted economic gain; for example, by property developers
attempting to rename districts to boost land/property values (Medway & Warnaby, 2014),
or by prioritising capital accumulation over social justice in the re-naming of streets
(Brasher et al., 2020). A critical aspect of such ‘top-down’, politically formulated acts is
how they aect people’s geographical understandings and perceptions by undermining
notions of a sense of place and ‘home’. Unsurprisingly, therefore, attempts at toponymic
commodication are sometimes successfully resisted by local communities, emphasising
the limits of neoliberalism (Kearns & Lewis, 2019).
What makes toponymic commodication dierent for sporting stadia is the often
direct use of a commercial name. As indicated above, existing work in the marketing
literature has examined this phenomenon, but is largely concerned with investigating the
success of sponsorship strategies, rather than analysing fans’ reactions to corporate
stadium (re)naming in detail. Yet there is evidence that football fans can strongly resist
a new corporate toponym being applied to their club’s stadium (Crompton & Howard,
2003; Edwards, 2012). Part of this resistance may be explained by Bale’s (2003, p. 14)
contention that ‘sport is one of the few things that binds people to place simply through
ascription’. Thus, changing the name of a sporting venue could be seen as an attack on
citizens’ place ties, highlighting the complex socio-political and spatial entanglements to
be uncovered around the practice of corporate (re)naming for sports stadia.
3. Context and method
We examine three contrasting cases of English football clubs that have adopted
a corporate stadium name within the last two decades. These are Manchester City,
which plays in the Premier League (tier one of professional football), and Bolton
Wanderers and Oldham Athletic from League Two
(tier four). Manchester City played
at Maine Road from 1923–2003, before moving to a new stadium, originally built for the
2002 Commonwealth Games. When construction began in 1999 this stadium was referred
to as ‘Eastlands’ after the area of the city in which it is located, but as the Commonwealth
Games venue it ocially became the ‘City of Manchester Stadium’ (notwithstanding
Manchester City’s move there in 2003). In 2011, the club agreed a deal with stadium
owner Manchester City Council for control over the naming rights, leading to a ten-year
sponsorship from airline operator Etihad (Taylor, 2011).
In 1997, Bolton Wanderers moved to the newly built ‘Reebok Stadium’, having pre-
viously played at Burnden Park since 1895. The Reebok Stadium was renamed ‘Macron
Stadium’ in 2014, after an Italian sportswear brand; and in 2018 it became the ‘University
of Bolton Stadium’. Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park stadium dates from 1899, but in
2014 was renamed ‘ Park’, following the signing of a ve-year naming
rights agreement with this retail company. However, in March 2018 the club announced
a renegotiated deal with Sports Direct to reinstate the former stadium name of Boundary
Park (Keay, 2018). Although this latter development occurred after our empirical data
collection, it is considered in the ndings below.
The three clubs are located within the relatively small geographic area of northwest
England, yet capture dierent contextual nuances. Manchester City represents a renaming
shortly after a stadium relocation; Bolton underwent a naming of a new stadium (which has
subsequently undergone two further renamings); while Oldham represents a renaming of
an existing and long-established stadium. The clubs were purposively sampled to explore
these dierent manifestations of (re)naming within a dened region.
Our research adopted a quasi-ethnographic approach, incorporating substantive pri-
mary data collection. This aligns with other recent critical toponymy studies that have
engaged directly with citizens to examine how they use, or do not use, local place names
within everyday speech (e.g. Light & Young, 2014; Rose-Redwood et al., 2019). First, over
several weeks we initiated and participated in (overtly as researchers) threads relating to
stadium (re)naming within online fan message boards for both Bolton Wanderers and
Manchester City (after seeking permission from moderators). We were unable to obtain
entrée to any message boards for Oldham fans. Relevant discussions and threads were
saved as Word documents. Second, matches at all three clubs were attended, with
observations recorded in eld notes. This proved useful for examining the role of stadium
names in collective forms of fan celebration such as chants and songs. Third, recognising
the power of walking as a means of seeing space dierently, and beyond the framing
‘aesthetic control’ of regulated urban design agendas (Edensor, 2008), the immediate
locales around the three stadia were walked. Here, we used eldnotes to capture any
toponymic connections or rifts between current and former stadia names, and those of
proximate streets/buildings. Fourth, group discussions (comprising four to six individuals)
were held with self-identied loyal fans, incorporating broad-based question/topic
prompts about corporate stadia (re)naming. An extra group discussion occurred with
Oldham fans to compensate for a lack of message board insights. Discussions lasted
approximately one hour and took place at mutually agreed venues. Recruitment was
through supporters’ association representatives and advertisements posted on fan mes-
sage boards and social media, and researchers’ personal contacts. Participants were
predominantly male (14 males and four females), reecting this gender bias amongst
English football fans (Caudwell, 2011; EFL, 2015), and ranged from 20–69 years in age. All
fans dened the team they supported as being ‘local’, typically clarifying this by the fact
they, or their parents, were born in and/or that they lived in, or near the area
surrounding their club’s location. Discussions were recorded and transcribed.
Analysis began from the position of viewing all data as forms of text, which were
subjected to an iterative form of thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). This involved
building up preliminary themes after coding the message board data and then reorganis-
ing, revising and modifying these following the coding of group discussion data and eld
notes. The process was rst undertaken independently by each researcher. Subsequently,
acknowledging the importance of conrmability in qualitative research (Lincoln & Guba,
1982), the authors collectively reviewed, negotiated and, where appropriate, merged their
independent interpretations, thereby allowing for further thematic modication. We
initially avoided engaging with ocial club representatives to ensure that it was primarily
fan discourses that surfaced. However, following analysis of fan-related data, three semi-
structured interviews were conducted with senior executives from each club to contex-
tualise our identied themes in terms of club policies and priorities.
4. Fan discourses of toponymic acceptance
For newly built stadia, where no previous name exists, fans appear willing to adopt
a corporate stadium name as they have minimal connection with the venue itself (Chen
& Zhang, 2011), and no memories attached to its physical space. This supports wider
evidence showing how European sporting venues built since 1990 are more likely to be
named after a corporate sponsor than those that are longer established (Vuolteenaho
et al., 2019). As one Manchester City fan explained, ‘I have no issues with the naming of
the stadium after a sponsor as there is very little history here’ (Manchester City fan e).
Similarly, a Bolton fan noted: ‘To be honest, I didn’t mind because it was a totally new
stadium, we had no feelings about it’ (Bolton fan a).
This toponymic acceptance, or perhaps even indierence, appears fueled by money.
The same Bolton fan continued:
It’s money for the club, it’s as simple as that . . . At the end of the day Macron will pay good
money to have their name up in lights like Reebok did, up on the stadium, so it helps the club
(Bolton fan a).
Another Manchester City fan suggested, ‘You can call it [the stadium] what you want’
(Manchester City fan c), provided this came with a signicant inux of sponsorship funds.
Even for Oldham fans, whose club had occupied Boundary Park since 1899, the promise of
corporate investment elicited a degree of acceptance of the new Park
stadium name:
The way I see it, it’s two players a season. Two young players a season it pays for (Oldham fan f).
Others suggested that where stadium (re)naming deals are concerned, clubs should ‘take
the money and run’ (Oldham fan b), noting that: ‘It doesn’t matter what the ocial name
is . . . If someone oers me a million pounds, they can call it what they want’ (Oldham fan
d). Here, notions of the exchange-value of a stadium name (Rose-Redwood et al., 2010), in
terms of what fans are willing to trade it for, are prominent.
By contrast, accepting sponsorship money for stadium naming rights was sometimes
presented in an alternative light, as a concession made by fans in the face of over-
whelming and inevitable market forces within the game:
People moan about it, but we’re powerless aren’t we? We need the money that much. We
would have let anybody come in and give us money to sponsor the ground . . . And that’s
unfortunately what football’s come to (Oldham fan i).
In this choice between ‘reality and ideality’ (Chen & Zhang, 2011, p. 107), fans rationalise
any displeasure in accepting corporate money with an attitude of reluctant pragmatism:
It’s almost sad that we’re not as angry about it . . . It’s a sad indictment of what the game’s
become; it’s all about the money (Oldham fan h).
This evidences two distinctive and countervailing perspectives. On the one hand, fans
construct discourses of toponymic acceptance in which they project themselves and their
club as opportunistic and canny recipients of corporate ‘free cash’ (Oldham fan b).
Alternatively, they portray themselves as victims of corporate power; drawn into accepting
sponsorship money and associated toponyms in order to remain competitive in football,
and thus becoming ‘a pawn of this Borg-like moneyed monolith’ (Boyd, 2000, p. 334). These
discourses resonate with two broader analyses connected to the contemporary game. The
former relates to fan power and resilience in the face of adversity (Parker & Stuart, 1997), and
a deeply ingrained optimism connected to team performance. The latter considers the
damaging inuence of big business in football and the fact that the game has changed
irrevocably, and potentially for the worse, through the ‘corporate destruction of football
communities’ (Brown, 2007, p. 624). In this regard, fans have little inuence over the choice
of a corporate stadium name. Indeed, there was no contextual evidence from our interviews
with club executives that fans were genuinely consulted on such matters:
If we felt that the sponsor was a good t for the club . . . we wouldn’t go out and consult
fans . . . because we would take a view on whether it was suitable or not. That’s our job to
make that decision (Football club executive, identity anonymised).
This absence of fan involvement conveys a message that they are just paying customers
(Boyd, 2000), with their degree of acceptance of a corporate stadium name a mere
reactive response to a decision over which they have little control. Despite this, we later
propose how fans may, paradoxically, maintain a signicant stake in the toponymic
utterances and accompanying discourses that help dene the production of space in
relation to their club and stadium.
5. Resistance and persistence
When toponyms are commodied their incorporation, or lack thereof, into everyday
speech becomes a critical point of focus. Thus, Rose-Redwood et al. (2010, after Rose-
Redwood, 2008) note that, ‘if enough people refuse to recognize a commodied name,
the ocial toponym itself may actually lose some of its own performative force’ (p. 466).
This identies toponymic resistance as a conscious, purposeful act with counter-
performative intent. Oldham fans, for example, recounted how they knowingly avoided
using the name Park. One described it as a ‘media name’ (Oldham fan f)
that is ‘not recognised’ by fans and local residents who continue to use the Boundary Park
toponym. This discourse of overt resistance was repeatedly articulated:
A million pounds is not a little amount of money . . . We accept it to a degree, but we’re still
never going to change that name. To us it’s still Boundary Park and will always be Boundary
Park (Oldham fan c).
Other Oldham fans framed this toponymic resistance as a power struggle between
themselves and the ‘they’ of club and corporate authorities:
They can call it what they want. Nobody here acknowledges the [ Park]
name (Oldham fan f; our emphasis).
However, the extent to which such resistance is down to conscious counter-
performativity, as opposed to the persistence of deeply ingrained habits of speech,
echoing the work of Light and Young (2014), is not always clear. As one fan explained:
I think to the hard-core fans that go there every week, it’s going to be Boundary Park (Oldham
fan d; our emphasis).
Building on notions of toponymic persistence, as opposed to actively formed resistance,
the Boundary Park name appears so woven into quotidian patterns of discourse within
the locale, that the new stadium name is a weak and ineective currency of place
I got a taxi to the game last week . . . I said, ‘Can you take me to Park?’ And
he went, ‘What? Boundary Park mate? Yeah, no worries my friend’ . . . Nobody acknowledges it
(Oldham fan f).
These persistent habitual utterances of the Boundary Park toponym are, perhaps, unsur-
prising considering the sponsor’s lack of leverage of the corporate name. At the time of
research (two years since the renaming deal), the stadium bore only one small sign
referencing the brand over the stadium shop. No further eorts were
made by Sports Direct to activate their naming rights prior to the club announcing the
reinstatement of the Boundary Park name in 2018. Fans’ lack of engagement with the Park stadium name was clearly important in arriving at this decision.
Indeed, the new (early 2018) owner of the club is reported as saying:
After speaking to Trust Oldham
and supporters, it was a priority for me to look at the options
surrounding the stadium name and how we could go back to our traditions and heritage
(Keay, 2018).
Fans from Manchester City and Bolton demonstrated little evidence of conscious, coun-
ter-performative resistance to existing corporate naming rights deals.
Again, therefore,
any use of former stadium names was largely due to the persistence of habits in everyday
speech, which were typically governed by the surrounding social context. Thus,
Manchester City fans identied situations when they would refer to a matchday visit to
the Etihad as ‘going to Maine Road,’ usually when talking to family and friends who would
know what they mean. Bolton fans, by contrast, acknowleged the continued use of the
former Reebok corporate name, but this was because Macron had failed to register with
non-fans from the Bolton area as a toponym:
It’s for everyone else . . . isn’t it? We [Bolton fans] go week in week out, so you get used to
saying, ‘Oh we’re going to the Macron’. But obviously people don’t go to the stadium very
often so they don’t know it’s a change (Bolton fan a).
In fact, the Reebok toponym is now so embedded in the everyday discourse of Bolton
citizens that it has become a shorthand for an area surrounding the Bolton Wanderers
It’s surprising how many people when they’re going shopping in the Middlebrook [the retail
park adjoining the stadium] say, ‘We’re going shopping at the Reebok’ (Bolton fan c).
In summary, whilst evidence exists of counter-performative resistance by Oldham fans
against a corporate stadium name, habit and inertia in discourse has also contributed to
the continued use of the original Boundary Park toponym amongst fans and non-fans alike.
Furthermore, this toponymic persistence may play an even greater role in explaining any
ongoing utterances of former stadium toponyms amongst both Bolton and Manchester City
fans and non-fans. Woisetschläger et al. (2014) appear to label any use of a previous stadium
name as a resistant act, but we would suggest this is an oversimplication. Rather, the
persistence of former toponyms emphasises that there may simply be a lack of interest,
concern or even knowledge about a stadium’s current name. This emulates Light and
Young's (2014) critique of academic scholarship’s assumed importance of the signicance
invested in street names by citizens, acknowledging that reactions to place names can be
‘rooted in more ambivalent and personal emotional geographies’ (p. 672). Such a view
resonates with our ndings regarding the limited ability of new corporate stadium names to
be fully adopted within, and beyond, a club’s fan base; in turn, raising questions over the
performative limits of corporate power in football.
The evidence of Oldham fans’ stronger resistance to the corporate renaming of their
stadium also suggests that this kind of opposition escalates signicantly when it involves
a long-established venue. This may reect a spatial sedimentation of fans’ longstanding
individual and collective practices in and around older football grounds, and the consequent
development of a deeply-rooted sense of place that becomes intertwined with a given
stadium toponym. In this manner, ‘[t]he collective expressions performed in the historical,
cultural setting of the stadium . . . sustain the relations between people, and between people
and place’ (Edensor, 2015, p. 83). Supporting this contention, both Bolton and Manchester City
fans were vocal in their imagined resistance to the renaming of the original grounds from
which they had moved, and identied that had this happened their reactions ‘would have
been a dierent story’ (Manchester City fan i). Clearly, there is a strong interplay here between
time and space, and the fact that the passing of the former can help anchor fans’ perceptions
and understandings of the latter. As one Manchester City fan noted: ‘I wouldn’t have been
happy at all had it been Maine Road that would have been changed . . . because we were there
so long’ (Manchester City fan a). Similarly, for Oldham Athletic, where an ocial corporate
renaming of an existing stadium has occurred, justication of the continued use of the
Boundary Park toponym was framed as relating to its temporal tenacity as a signier of
a xed point on the earth: ‘We’ve not moved, so Boundary Park will always be Boundary Park’
(Oldham fan b).
6. Practices of (and perspectives on) toponymic commemoration
Edensor (2015) emphasises how the accretion and layering of fans’ spatially-rooted
memories within their stadium form an important part of their identication with
a football club. Accordingly, the removal of a former stadium name could be perceived
by fans as an act of ocial toponymic decommemoration, and a disruption of the place-
specic memories they associate with their club. This is arguably a case where the lure of
sponsorship money is prioritised over a club’s distinctiveness (Reysen et al., 2012) and
fans’ identity (Woisetschläger et al., 2014). It is a situation that may be further exacerbated
when corporate stadia names are short-lived, or exhibit banal interchangeability as
sponsorship deals come and go.
Aware of fans’ potentially negative views of corporate (re)naming, club authorities
(working with developers) can make eorts to mitigate these by invoking the deliberate
commemoration of former toponyms. For example, a road running adjacent to the current
University of Bolton Stadium is named ‘Burnden Way’, after the former Burnden Park
ground (Medway et al., 2019). This adds another strand to extensive work examining the
use of commemorative street naming in writing and reinforcing narratives of identity within
urban space (e.g. Alderman, 2000; Azaryahu, 1996; Rose-Redwood, 2008; Yeoh, 2009). The
Burnden Way road name can therefore be interpreted as a performative act of spatial
inscription by sovereign authorities (Rose-Redwood et al., 2010); it serves as an intertextual
bridge for fans, facilitating recall and celebration of former club glories, and supporting
notions of a ‘memory place’ (Boyd, 2000, p. 330). As one Bolton fan elaborated in relation to
Burnden Way: ‘It’s keeping the history, bringing the history with it’ (Bolton fan a).
Ocially sanctioned toponymic commemoration is also evidenced in club-
approved souvenirs. For example, in Oldham Athletic’s shop we purchased
a nostalgic keyring depicting the original Boundary Park name. Ironically, this item
was being sold (at the time of eldwork) by the stadium naming rights holder (and
operator of the club shop) However, the Oldham Athletic executive
interviewed emphasised that the keyring was less about the club wishing to com-
memorate a former toponym, and more a case of the corporate sponsor capitalising
on fans’ nostalgia by merchandising what it perceived to be commercially viable
commemorative goods.
This focus on commercial motivations underpinning the toponymic commemoration
invoked by organisations was also witnessed during eldwork, notably when we queued
for pies at ‘Maine Road Chippy’ before a Manchester City home match. The premises were
outside the curtilage of the stadium in an old Victorian building. From here we looked
directly across at Manchester City’s current ground, illuminated with one-metre high blue
lettering declaring ‘ETIHAD STADIUM’ – historic and new toponyms directly juxtaposed.
Here was a business keen to leverage fans’ valorisation of the former stadium name to
help attract match-day custom.
In other instances, organisational commemoration of former stadia names is more
altruistic. For example, on the site of Bolton Wanderers’ former Burnden Park ground
is an ASDA supermarket. The grocery store reects the footballing history of its
location through its name, ‘ASDA Burnden Park’, along with large photographs inside
showing scenes from the old stadium and a plaque remembering a crush of fans
there in 1946 that claimed 33 lives. This helps position the former ground as
a memory place within the realm of everyday life (Azaryahu, 1996; Dickinson, 1997),
and highlights the importance of locational authenticity in toponymic commemora-
tion. Critically, fans do not perceive the ‘ASDA Burnden Park’ name as being commer-
cially oriented. Rather, it appears to be viewed as a sensitive acknowledgement of the
interplay between the surrounding community and the heritage of the local team,
and the way both are woven into the fabric of the place on which a supermarket now
stands. As one fan states: ‘You go to the ASDA there, you’re back at Burnden Park
aren’t you?’ (Bolton fan c). This echoes the work of Hague and Mercer (1998), who
demonstrate how a football club can act as important source material for the con-
struction and maintenance of a locally-rooted and shared ‘geographical memory’.
At the matches we attended, visual manifestation of toponymic commemoration by
fans within stadia was lacking. An exception was a Bolton match, where we witnessed
a fan’s banner declaring ‘Farewell Burnden Park’. Conversely, we regularly heard refer-
ences to former stadia names in songs and chants. At Bolton matches fans sang the song
Burnden Aces, which references the club’s original home and its location on Manchester
(Manny) Road with the lines:
. . . All the lads and lasses, smiles upon their faces,
Walking down the Manny Road to see the Burnden Aces.
In examining this song’s continued popularity, some fans were keen to emphasise its
commemorative purpose, positioning it as a cultural artefact that has emerged over time
and is imbued with meaning and memories:
Burnden Aces are a dierent time . . . When they’re singing about the Burnden Aces they’ll be
thinking about a specic era, specic players, and it’s not yet associated with the players that
were at the Reebok (Bolton fan a).
Other Bolton fans presented the singing of Burnden Aces as being less about commem-
oration, and more of a consciously performed act of toponymic resistance that knowingly
foregrounds the memories associated with Burnden Park against the lack of meaning in
more recent stadium names:
History started a long time before the Premier League and a very long time before the
Reebok. The aliation of the song isn’t to a footwear/clothing company, so you’re not going
to change Burnden to Reebok/Macron/QuickQuid or whoever – that’d be plain stupid (Bolton
fan i).
In the Etihad Stadium, the rst verse of the popular We are City chant of Manchester City
fans identied their former Maine Road ground as home. There were suggestions that its
persistence since the club’s move from the former stadium was less a reection of
commemorative value, and more a result of habits in speech, and the fact that the We
are City chant was too deeply rooted within the collective psyche of the fan base to be
It’s historical. That was sung when we were at Maine Road, and so you just continue it . . .
there’s no Etihad song (Manchester City fan a).
The absence of an Etihad song also highlights the temporary nature of corporate stadium
names (Boyd, 2000), suppressing the impetus for fans to devise chants and songs that
incorporate them. As one fan noted: ‘Stadiums now are changing their name so readily
that . . . you start singing a song and the next thing it’s gone’ (Bolton fan c).
A further layer of complexity is added by the fact that our attendance at Bolton’s home
matches was always accompanied by the Burnden Aces song being broadcast over the
public address system immediately pre-match, along with projected images of past
players and former club glories. Similarly, at Manchester City’s home matches we wit-
nessed the playing of Boys in Blue a song referencing the Maine Road name – in the
match build-up, accompanied by footage of historic games (some at the Maine Road
stadium) on a giant screen. In both instances most of the home crowd joined in. These
broadcasts appear to deliver ocially sanctioned versions of toponymic history and
commemoration that are willingly repeated by fans, either with counter-performative
intent, or through the habit of match-day rituals. We propose that these potential
subversions of the current stadium name are acceptable to club authorities because
they are controllable within stadium space, and for a time-bounded period. For Bolton
fans, making the Burnden toponym a focus for commemoration in song also circumvents
use of the stadium name associated with the sponsor prior to Macron, and any ‘corporate
awkwardness’ that might arise from this – in eect, a tacit decomemmoration of the
Reebok toponym. The purposeful playing of Burnden Aces at the start of matches there-
fore delivers an institutional steer to fans’ toponymic and commemorative utterances, yet
in so doing perversely encourages the use of counter-speech in the form of the non-
corporate, original stadium name.
The above discussion demonstrates that the strength of emotional ties between fans
and club creates ideal conditions for the persistence of intertextual meaning embedded in
the commemoration of past stadium names. As well as being evident in ocial and
institutionally dened spatial ordering devices such as street names, or the names of
independent business premises, we have shown that there is also potential for toponymic
commemoration to emerge from fan sources in the form of culturally grounded, fan-
based artefacts such as songs and chants. All of these acts simultaneously draw upon and
reinforce fans’ collective sense of club history, which itself may be linked to the particular
geography of English football. Specically, clubs and their fans often have strong con-
nections to a given locale and the unique built environment of a stadium and its environs
(Edensor, 2015; Edensor & Millington, 2010). Thus, spatially-rooted memories are both
products of toponymic commemoration and essential resources for it, demonstrating the
importance of the intergenerational transfer of knowledge and understanding about club
histories between supporters. This was illustrated in our group discussion with Bolton
fans, who talked about how younger supporters will ask older family and friends about
the Burnden Aces song, thereby facilitating the endurance of this historical point of
reference. Such ndings echo work on music fans, who have been shown to preserve,
pass on and co-create memories through grati (Alderman, 2002b) and the naming of
businesses (Gunderman & Harty, 2017). Whatever the focus, it is evident that fans can be
active co-creators of particular cultural geographies; inscribing memories of clubs, stadia,
bands or artists into their everyday cultural landscapes and the places they visit.
Conversely, because fans’ toponymic commemoration is so evidently reliant on inter-
textual memory and interpretation, the commemorative power of older stadium names
may weaken over time. This will occur as new generations of fans emerge without personal
or inherited recall of former stadia and/or previous toponyms – a semiotic decoupling of the
textual signier from its historical and locationally-signied referent (Azaryahu, 1996).
Moreover, such a reading frames toponymic commemoration as a consciously performed
act, reliant on the intertextual cognisance of those undertaking and receiving this perfor-
mance, without which any spoken, sung or written use of a former toponym arguably
moves from an act of commemoration to a mere free-oating signier, embedded in the
routines of everyday discourse. This echoes Light and Young's (2014) suggestions that what
might pass as the societal contestation of new toponyms may be as much down to habit/
inertia in using older toponymic forms as it is to active toponymic resistance. Equally, we
suggest that what might pass as commemoration of former toponyms may also result from
similar habitual inuences. Furthermore, distinguishing between toponymic resistance,
toponymic habit/inertia or persistence, and toponymic commemoration becomes challen-
ging, and largely down to a subjective evaluation of the contextualising discourses in which
toponymic utterances are embedded.
7. Discussion and conclusion
Critical toponymy literature has emphasised some broad binary tensions in toponymic
practices and how these inscribe space. On the one hand, signicant work acknowledges
performative limits to regimes of toponymic spatial inscription enacted by sovereign
authorities. This suggests that ocial toponyms are constantly open to unocial versions
and ‘myriad counter performances’ (Rose-Redwood, 2008, p. 891), aligning with Thrift’s
(2003) assertion that the ‘fabric of space is so multifarious that there are always holes and
tears in which new forms of expression can come into being’ (p. 2023). Such arguments
are rooted in notions of counter-memory (Foucault, 1977) and associated practices of
counter-speech (Butler, 1997). These provide the basis for consciously invoked perlocu-
tionary toponymic utterances that (re)signify space, and which may be intentionally
repeated or copied by multiple individuals. On the other hand, Light and Young (2014)
imply that toponymic counter-performance as an act of intentional contestation/deance
against ocial place naming practices might be overstated. Drawing on Edensor (2009)
and Du (2010), they identify how passive, unreexive and precognitive habits, routines
and inertia are important in the persistence of longstanding toponymic practices. In these
instances, everyday toponymic utterances might be misconstrued as purposeful and
active resistance to newly sanctioned place names.
Our investigation suggests that the interplay between ocial toponymic practices and
social actors is more multi-dimensional and inconsistent than previous work has indi-
cated. We surface intricate entanglements in how football fans accept, actively shun, or
passively ignore corporate stadium names; demonstrating that such actions can present
very dierent interpretations and understandings of stadium space, and its surrounding
and associated areas, across various time-space contexts.
At one level, fans’ acceptance of corporate stadium names is governed by whether
a stadium is newly built or long-established; and whether forfeiting the previous stadium
name is perceived as a good nancial deal for their club. Yet dig below the surface and
a more complex picture is revealed. Manchester City fans vacillate between public
acceptance of the Etihad name as a nancially pragmatic media reality, but revert to
more habitual naming practices in everyday speech with family and friends. However, this
is not, arguably, active resistance in which the old Maine Road name is consciously
counter-performed, rather it reects a situation in which the Etihad name appears unable
to dislodge the semiotic dominance of longstanding toponymic practices.
For Oldham fans, it was dicult to draw a clear line between their active resistance to
a new corporate stadium name and the persistence of ingrained routines of semantic
memory relating to the original toponym. This is reective of fans' continued attendance
at the same stadium, which has acquired little visible evidence of the
naming rights sponsor. Here, toponymic resignication is realised primarily as a form of
corporate rhetoric, rather than a lived spatial reality – a view reinforced by the fact that the
club shop still sells memorabilia referencing Boundary Park, and outside the stadium the
street name ‘Boundary Park Road’ remains unchanged. These circumstances make it
easier for Oldham fans to appear deantly resistant towards the new corporate toponym,
whilst also accepting any money it brings. Furthermore, the fact that fans have not had to
signicantly alter their match-day geographies and mobilities to adjust to a new ground
may have helped maintain stability in their toponymic discourse.
Many Bolton fans continue to refer to their current stadium as ‘the Reebok’. This appears
to be driven by habit, coupled with the fact that the Macron name failed to gain signicant
traction amongst the wider community. Yet although the Reebok toponym is still regularly
uttered by Bolton fans when referring to their current stadium, it is not the name of the
club’s original home, but a corporate name used for 17 years between 1997 and 2014
a period when the club experienced some success in the Premier League. This suggests that
habit and inertia in toponymic utterances can also apply to former corporate stadia names,
particularly if they were around for long enough and during a period when a club performed
well on the pitch.
Fans’ sense of club history and the importance attached to former stadium names
clearly plays a key role in toponymic commemoration, and it is easy to imagine how such
commemoration could be misconstrued as toponymic resistance. However, the fact that
the clubs studied also invoke historic toponymic commemoration (e.g. by renaming roads
or broadcasting matchday songs that reference former stadium names), without appear-
ing to jeopardise current naming rights sponsorship arrangements, indicates that such
commemorative activity has minimal bearing on whether the fan base nds a new
corporate name acceptable, or is resistant to it.
In conclusion, whilst corporate power in football may seem like an unstoppable force, it
does not necessarily follow that it will always reach into the spaces of fan communities, at
least where stadium names are concerned. Whilst fans sometimes use a corporate sta-
dium name, it is usually when it suits them to do so, highlighting that toponymic
geographies can be subtler than the imposition of top-down regimes of performative
spatial inscription, and a subsequent acquiescence or counter-performative resistance to
these. Consequently, the corporate appropriation of football space(s) occurs more on
fans’ terms than might initially be realised. Certainly, our analysis suggests that any
overtures of corporate involvement in football via toponymic inscription are potentially
undermined by fans’ unconscious, routinised and everyday acts of speech. Furthermore, if
these corporate spatial interventions move beyond an acceptable threshold, as witnessed
with Oldham Athletic and the change of the Boundary Park stadium name, then fans
appear to demonstrate a more conscious form of counter-performative, toponymic
resistance. A question remains as to where that acceptable threshold lies, and whether
it can be circumvented by the promise of corporate largesse.
In sum, we contend that concerns over the commodication of community space and
‘selling home’ (Boyd, 2000) via the corporate (re)naming of football stadia may be an
unwarranted panic over neoliberal creep. This does not deny that corporate involvement
in football can aect social geographies of the game in negative ways by, for example,
signicantly increasing ticket prices, or acting as a nancial catalyst for new stadia
developments, which can unsettle fans’ long-established match-day spatial routines
(Edensor & Millington, 2010). Nevertheless, we suggest a more optimistic outlook, and
that fans’ resilience may be underestimated. Certainly, the fans in our study have main-
tained a signicant and potentially controlling stake in the toponymic utterances and
accompanying discourses that help dene the political production of space in and around
their clubs. Personal, emotional and quotidian understandings of stadium spaces and
their environs cannot, it seems, be easily erased or usurped by corporate power.
Going forward, future work could consider the social and spatial implications of such
naming practices in relation to other sporting and entertainment venues, public buildings and
spaces, suggesting a rich eld of intersection between sports geographies, critical toponymy
and urban geography. In addition, our study has examined the variegated toponymic
discourses of self-dened loyal fans who see their team as being ‘local’. Further research
could therefore examine the potentially contrasting reactions to corporate stadium (re)nam-
ing amongst the increasingly globalised, non-local fan base of elite clubs like Manchester City.
Beyond sport, public reaction to commercially-driven name changes is being played out in
various urban contexts, including streets (Brasher et al., 2020; Karimi, 2016) and the buildings
of public institutions like schools and universities (Blocher, 2007; Drennan, 2012). The physical
and infrastructural fabric of cities should, therefore, be a key focus for ongoing research into
the toponymic commodication of space and associated place identity. Such enquiries would
undoubtedly widen our understanding of the geosemiotic and political traction of corporate
toponyms in spatial inscription, delineation and wider placemaking activities.
1. Bolton Wanderers and Oldham Athletic have both been relegated from higher tiers since
eldwork took place.
2. The Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Trust.
3. An exception from the wider fan community is Manchester City supporter Ken Hursteld,
who campaigns for the Etihad Stadium to be called ‘Eastlands’ (
This demonstrates that toponymic resistance can be an individual as well as a collective
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Dominic Medway
Gary Warnaby
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... However, resistance does exist. It can manifest as overt protest on the sites or through media, but it can also manifest as less visible but no less significant dissident performances, such as the intentional use of alternative place names in everyday speech (Creţan, 2019;Duminy, 2014;Gillooly et al., 2021). Another possibility is that citizens disregard newly imposed place names and/or keep going to use previously assigned ones. ...
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Toponymic commodification has generally been regarded as a win–win strategy by government-as-seller and corporation-as-buyer, resulting in its increasing global prevalence in recent decades. However, this paper interrogates this common sense by examining the media discourse on this commodification practice in China. 145 related newspaper articles published from 2002 to 2016 are analyzed. The results show that despite the claim that toponymic commodification is a win–win partnership for governments and corporations, most media outlets are concerned that citizens might passively assume the extra social burden and lose their right to the city, and they warn that toponymic commodification has the risk of devolving into a no-win game if citizens’ interests are not considered. Therefore, a win-win situation for both the seller and buyer should not be understood as a guaranteed outcome. This paper concludes by discussing its broader implications for understanding the limitations of neoliberal urbanism.
What are place names? From where do they originate? How are they structured? What do they signify? How important are they in our life? This groundbreaking book explores these compelling questions and more by providing a thorough introduction to the assumptions, theories, terminology, and methods in toponymy and toponomastics – the studies of place names, or toponyms. It is the first comprehensive resource on the topic in a single volume, and explores the history and development of toponyms, focusing on the conceptual and methodological issues pertinent to the study of place names around the world. It presents a wide range of examples and case studies illustrating the structure, function, and importance of toponyms from ancient times to the present day. Wide ranging yet accessible, it is an indispensable source of knowledge for students and scholars in linguistics, toponymy and toponomastics, onomastics, etymology, and historical linguistics.
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Shaun Lim Tyan Gin, and Francesco Perono Cacciafoco. (2021). Isles and Their Stories: A Study of Three Islands of the Singapore Archipelago. Review of Historical Geography and Toponomastics, XVI, 31-32: 37-60 - This paper studies three Singaporean islands (with their original Malay names in brackets): St. John’s Island (Pulau Sakijang Bendera), Sentosa (Pulau Blakang Mati), and Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon). Using primary sources, such as maps and newspapers, and secondary sources, like books on Singaporean toponymy, the authors trace these place names across time. The toponyms conform to the broader trend of naming patterns of Singaporean toponyms. More importantly, the facilities, land uses, and histories of the three islands dovetail with pertinent aspects of Singapore’s history and, more broadly, with global discussions on linguistic toponymies and geographies. Through this research, it is evident that the toponyms, or place names, along with their connected stories, are inextricably linked to the history, languages, cultures, and societies of the places they name. This paper ultimately aims to be a starting point for further research on Singapore’s island names, an area that has received scant attention in Singaporean toponymy thus far. - Keywords: Singapore, Toponymy, Toponomastics, Historical Geography, Islands, Insulonyms, Islotoponomastics, Island Names, Sociolinguistics
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In 2013, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma ‘renamed’ Brady Street in its downtown arts district to M.B. Brady Street and designated the road as Reconciliation Way to rid itself of ties to Wyatt ‘Tate’ Brady, the original namesake. Tate Brady, a Ku Klux Klan leader, participated in a 1921 massacre that killed, injured, and displaced many black Tulsans. Honoring M.B. Brady, a Civil War photographer with the same last name but no ties to Tulsa, was part of a neoliberal compromise to ensure the name change would have the least disruptive impact on the financial interests of white business owners on the road. The Tulsa case demonstrates how convenience and practicality—although represented as a matter of neoliberal ‘nonpolitics’—is nonetheless a political technology used to justify sanitizing controversial histories and prioritizing capital accumulation over social justice. The faux renaming of Brady prompts a critical consideration of how neoliberalism weakens cities’ ability to engage in the restorative ‘memory-work’ of recovering (from) past racial violence. Our study contributes to the study of neoliberal place naming, struggles over urban space and memory, and the possibilities and limits of street naming as a vehicle for (re)claiming a black sense of place.
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This article examines issues of scale in urban toponymic inscription. The specific focus of inquiry is toponymic commodification, whereby corporate brand names of international scope are imposed on English football stadia and their locally embedded fan communities. We employ primary data relating to three football clubs in the Greater Manchester conurbation, all of which have sold their stadium naming rights to corporate entities. Drawing on fans’ perspectives, our findings initially surface the scalar tensions arising from such occurrences. We explore how football club authorities attempt to manage these tensions; first through efforts to embed corporate names into the fabric of urban communities, and second by using commemoration to valorize notions of the “local” for their fan base. The article concludes by discussing how our findings deepen understanding of critical toponymies, particularly in terms of theorizing scale and shedding light on the workings of neoliberal agendas for controlling urban space.
Originally published in 2009, this edited collection brings together works that conceptualize the hegemonic and contested practices of geographical naming. The contributors guide the reader into struggles over toponymy in a multitude of national and local contexts across Europe, North America, New Zealand, Asia and Africa. In a ground-breaking and multidisciplinary fashion, this volume illuminates the key role of naming in the colonial silencing of indigenous cultures, canonization of nationalistic ideals into nomenclature of cities and topographic maps, as well as the formation of more or less fluid forms of postcolonial and urban identities.
In 2012, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced they established a partnership with the city of London to play one home game each year. This article frames the Jaguars ‘home away from home’ to the London Jaguars amidst American sports expansion. Critical and conceptual reflections will be linked to sport, geography, neoliberalism and deterritorialization. This article contributes to the literature on sports geography as it ascribes and applies the notion of semi-deterritorialization. To analyse discussions and representations concerning the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, this work seeks out and evaluates meanings presented through online media to interpret the place and presence of the Jaguars in London. In line with the contribution of this article, interpreting meanings of territorialization in this case lead to new permutations of semi-deterritorialization based on the Jaguars temporary presence.
Sport and home are intimately connected. This connection has, however, remained little explored by geographers. Drawing on the stories of 32 football fans who live in New Zealand but support a team based in another country, football fandom is unpacked as key to constructing geographies of home and belonging across distance. Applying recent work in ‘emotional mobilities’ and drawing on the notion of ‘affective economics’, I argue the movement between these fan homes and the journeying to a significant sporting home highlights the transference of emotion across space. In particular three themes emerge, through collecting fans’ stories using mixed and emerging methods such as ‘go-alongs’, photography and interviews. For fans, homes associated with football teams such as stadia can be seen as spiritual, with a pilgrimage undertaken to ‘return’ to this significant space. Alternative homes, however, can also be sought and begin to stretch fan homes away from physical locations. Finally, examining fans’ relationships to ‘imaginary’ homes, anchored through the use of media and television, exposes the construction of ‘virtual homes’. Thus, sport allows geographies of home to be performed and ‘felt’ in a variety of dispersed and ‘stretched’ space.
The selling of naming rights to corporate sponsors has led urban policymakers to increasingly view the identities of public places as rent-generating assets to fund urban infrastructure. Yet few scholars have critically analyzed this emerging global trend of toponymic commodification and the seeking of “naming rent.” Through a combination of archival research, on-site field observations, and semi-structured interviews, this study examines how the practice of toponymic commodification is transforming the cultural landscapes of contemporary cities by considering two naming rights programs: Dubai’s Metro Naming Rights Initiative and the Sponsor Winnipeg Program. In each case, we explore the implications of commodifying public place names as well as the conflicting perceptions of such sponsorship programs. In doing so, the present study illustrates how the selling of naming rights is reshaping the built environment into a space of symbolic/economic capital transformations as brands become destinations and public places are reconceived as marketing opportunities.
Proposals to change the names of entire urban centres are rare. We examine the case of Blenheim, New Zealand, where in 2016, representatives of local businesses campaigned for its renaming as Marlborough City, in recognition of the region’s wine industry. Although defeated the proposal threatened to over-write established settlement history. It presumed to rename Blenheim under the aegis of New Zealand Inc., a shorthand for the pervasive yet nebulous economic nationalism that seeks to yoke all local and national identity to enhancing export growth. Drawing on media reports, we interpret this example of toponymic commodification as a neoliberalized project of place-making. Ironically, Blenheim and Marlborough are colonial names that displaced a long-established Māori name. The proposal highlights both the perversities and the deeply contested claims-making that often underlie and animate toponymic politics. Ultimately, it illustrates some of the limits of rights claimed under neoliberalism.
Drawing on a database of 193 football (soccer) grounds and 115 indoor arenas, as well as press releases and media reports associated with them, this study charts the diffusion of sporting and entertainment facility name sponsorship across metropolises, cities, towns, and smaller settlements in six European contexts. Our results show the emergence of naming rights deals in the 1990s, their peak in the mid-2000s, and the current situation with a steadier growth of name sponsorship. Thus far, the corporate re-branding of venues has remained less prevalent in Italy, Norway, and Scotland than in England and Wales, Finland, and above all Germany. In financing newly built venues, however, the corporatized landmark language in focus has become a practically invariable part of local growth, austerity and (re)branding policies. Despite voices of resistance in all regions studied here, pressure towards the corporate renaming of even hereditary, communally endorsed football stadiums is increasingly being felt by municipal and private-sector venue owners.
The marginalized and impoverished Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver, Canada has long been subjected to planning programs that have aimed to solve area problems through strategic government intervention. The 2011–2014 Local Area Planning Process, led by the City of Vancouver in consultation with local actors, represents the most recent of such programs. Despite the Local Area Planning Process’s stated goal of inclusive participation, the resultant Downtown Eastside plan transformed the political landscape of the neighbourhood and met with derision from stakeholders for its potential to generate dramatic capital-led transformations. In this paper, we critique participatory planning through a case study of the Local Area Planning Process. We utilize a lens of critical toponymy (the investigation of the historical and political implications of place naming) as a methodological tool to examine planning technologies of power and their mobilization through governmental processes. We deploy a novel approach to toponymy, drawing on assemblage theory, that presents toponymy as a radically open and dynamic process mobilized relationally through a multiplicity of discourses and materialities. Our case study demonstrates that processes of toponymic assemblage within the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process worked to (1) generate new territorial conflicts, (2) depoliticize community activism, and (3) co-opt racialized and class-based histories of displacement and dispossession to stimulate “revitalization” (“Japantown”). On the other hand, we found that in unanticipated ways, these processes worked to stimulate anti-gentrification activism, alliances, and resistance. Our analysis of planning highlights how toponymic agency can service oppressive and marginalizing place-framings, but it can also have liberating effects – by inspiring unlikely alliances and counter-framings.