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The outrageous renaming of Bellerive Oval

December 10, 2011

Fans of sport are used to advertising. A lot of advertising. In a typical cricket match there is advertising in between overs and during the lunch break; advertisements all around the ground, in the outfield, on the stumps, on the players shirts; even in the naming of a series (it is not a test match, it is a Vodafone test match) and most absurdly, during the drinks break people on Segways come out with giant inflatable drink bottles on their back.

Mostly these are accepted as something that is a part of the “modern game”, except for the use of Segways which is just too plain ludicrous for anyone to accept. However, mumours of discontent began when people turned on to watch the cricket from Hobart yesterday and found that the ground is no longer known as the Bellerive Oval but rather the Blundstone Arena.

There have been two  major objections to this. Firstly, that it shows how corporatised cricket has become and secondly, it is a dumb name. Both are true. The name arena invokes gladiators and an intimidatory atmosphere. Hobart is many things but it is not that.

While many, including myself, only found out about the name change while watching the test match, it has been in place since October. In a fairly hilarious press release, Blundstone says, “While the venue will sport a new identity from today onwards, the Bellerive reference will stay in the title ensuring that the heritage and history of the venue is maintained.” In reality, this was a requirement of the Clarence City Council who are the owners, but guess what the title of the press release is? “BELLERIVE OVAL BECOMES BLUNDSTONE ARENA.”

Blundstone also said, “We have committed to be on board for the next five years but our plan is to extend the arrangement for many years beyond that.” If that is their plan, then it is not off to a good start. It is either met with hostility or people have failed to notice. Even commentators on that perpetual shrine to commercialism – Channel Nine – keep on forgetting to call it the Blundstone Arena

Opposition to the name shouldn’t be seen as mindless nostalgia. Nostalgia is a part of it and that is not a bad thing . The ground has existed as Bellerive oval since 1914 and for many people outside Tasmania, Bellerive oval was Tasmania. The only interaction that many people had with Tassie was watching the cricket being played from Bellerive on television (which always included lovely shots of Derwent river that is quite close to the ground). You can also see the nostalgia being used in other commercials. As Ricky Ponting tries to sell us energy pills talking about his life story, he walks past a sign that says in all capital letters ‘Bellerive Oval’.

More than this, though, it reflects  a lack of control that people have over the game. Everyone was just told that it was the Blundstone Arena after 97 years. No consultation. No discussion. It just is. It is the financial interest of Blundstone and supposedly Cricket Tasmania, so it must happen.  Cricket Tasmania  cannot possibly do this and expect everyone to fall in line and call the ground whatever their paymasters want us to call it.

To try to combat a pretty brazen act of a corporate takeover Blundstone stated, “Blundstone has been a part of Tasmania’s fabric for over 140 years with today’s announcement another exciting page to add to its history book.” You see, because Blundstone is part of Tasmania’s fabric, it is not a problem for it to own the naming rights to Tasmania’s premier sports venue. Like most corporate claims, though, it is high on puffery and short on reality.

The ABC reported in 2007, “It’s as Australian as RM Williams, but for the other famous boot company, Blundstone, that’s about to change. For the first time in its 137 year history, the Hobart based footwear group is shifting its manufacturing operations to Asia, putting 300 workers out of a job. The announcement has shocked and angered unions and the local community.” Others have said the figure was 350. Moreover, they made the decision to sack workers but waited till after Christmas to tell them for public relations reasons.

One worker told the ABC that they were “Devastated. I just don’t know how I feel, really. Just upset. Could have had a bit more notice. If they had of told us on 15th December when they first found out, we wouldn’t have got our mortgage.”

What makes this all the more galling is at the same time that Blundstone was laying off workers, they received million of dollars in public subsidies.  So, we have the absurd situation where a ground that is owned by the public is renamed after a company that effectively stole millions of dollars of public money just because they paid some of that to Cricket Tasmania. It is the public’s ground, yet the public had no real say in its renaming.

The renaming of Bellerive Oval isn’t a harmless thing or a “sign of the times”, it is based on sacked workers, outsourcing and a complete misuse of public money. For all these reasons, most Tasmanians won’t be calling Bellerive the ‘Blundstone Arena’, and neither should anyone else.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mel permalink
    December 10, 2011 11:37 pm

    I agree that it’s outrageous for Blundstone to be allowed to buy the naming rights to Bellerive Oval. It’s not ironic that they did it after sacking almost all their local workers though, that’s exactly the reason they did it. Blundstone have built their brand on the idea of being Australian, much like Qantas, but they struggle with living up to this idea by actually having an Australian workforce and production base. So they buy their way out by changing the name of Tasmania’s most well known sports ground, and attempt to continue their local brand association that way. It’s a cynical strategy and most people will see through it.

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