The Football Association has agreed a deal under which Wembley Stadium will be renamed to incorporate mention of new sponsor EE.
The FA is understood to have concluded negotiations with 4G mobile phone provider EE and will announce a deal whereby the stadium will become known as “Wembley Stadium in association with EE”, “Wembley Stadium supported by EE” or another similar construction.
The imminent renaming of arguably the most famous sporting venue in the world will dismay those who feel it should be ‘above’ commercial deals.
The FA made it clear during talks with potential sponsors that naming rights of the kind which would have rebranded the stadium as, for example, the ‘EE Stadium’ were not for sale and that Wembley had to remain part of the name.
Telegraph Sport revealed in September the FA, which is celebrating its 150th birthday, was seeking sponsorship for Wembley and was hoping to raise around £8 million a year.
Many of Britain’s best-known sporting venues have sold naming rights deals over the past decade, with Arsenal among the football clubs whose ground is known by the name of its sponsor. The Kia Oval, scene of some of England’s most memorable recent cricketing achievements, has had three different titles since first selling naming rights, by turns advertising an Australian brewer, an insurance company, and now a South Korean car manufacturer.
But neither Twickenham nor Lord’s, the headquarters of English rugby and cricket respectively, have yet sought to rename themselves in exchange for sponsorship.
The FA agreed a similar deal for the FA Cup, which is now officially known as the FA Cup Sponsored By Budweiser.
Wembley has a number of current commercial deals, but not a lead sponsor. These include a deal with Carlsberg as the “Official Beer of Wembley Stadium” and commercial tie-ups in the food, soft-drink, confectionary and travel categories.
EE itself was renamed in September having previously been Everything Everywhere, a company formed when Orange and T-Mobile merged in 2010.
The FA has been seeking a lead sponsor for Wembley since the stadium was reopened in 2007. The first incarnation of the stadium was opened in 1923, when it was officially called the Empire Exhibition Stadium in a reference to Britain’s then-vast overseas territories, before becoming Wembley Stadium.