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Flybe forgoes stadium naming rights in Saints deal

LONDON - Flybe has decided to forgo its right to rename the Southampton Football Club stadium with its own branding in a move it says shows its commitment to supporting the game in the local community.

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Flybe has the right to co-brand the stadium, after signing a three-year sponsorship deal with the club, but has opted to use the ground's original name, St Mary's Stadium. For the past five seasons, the ground has officially been called The Friends Provident St Mary's Stadium.

The airline's logo will still appear on The Saints' shirts and some branding on Kingsland Stands.

The move is in stark contrast to Premiership clubs such as Arsenal, which has signed a £100m deal with the airline Emirates in which its new ground will be officially named Emirates Stadium.

The Saints, which now play in the Coca-Cola Championship League having been relegated from the Premiership in 2005 after 27 years, welcomed the move, pointing out that most fans referred to the ground as St Mary's anyway.

Ian Taylor, general manager of market development at Flybe, said: "While it is important to us in our role as the main club sponsor that the team carry the Flybe name, it is the fans that really have ownership of the stadium where their team plays.

"So it seems perfectly right that our first act as club sponsor should be to give the name of the stadium back to the fans and we are pleased that from now on the ground will be known simply as St Mary's."

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