The Jets have struggled for crowds at times and it might make sense for them to change their name and rebrand themselves so that they can appeal more to fans from across a wider region.
Currently the team’s name relates to Newcastle, the immediate location where they play. But Newcastle and even the broader Hunter region are well under a million people in size. Newcastle itself has a population of only 322,000, while the Hunter has a bit over 600,000.
If Newcastle want to grow their fan base, they need to go beyond these limits and market themselves as a club for New England, and they could do this by changing their name to New England FC. The ‘northern provinces’ of the New England region have a larger population the Hunter region itself and it’s important to acknowledge these people in the team’s name and logo.
New England has 200,000 people and the Mid North Coast has 300,000. The Northern Rivers adds another 300,000, while the North West Slopes add 45,000. That’s a total of 845,000 all up.
That makes the northern provinces larger than Tasmania’s 526,000 people and twice the size of the ACT’s 419,000 people. It dwarfs the Northern Territory, which has only 246,000 people, and it’s also larger than Northern Queensland, which boasts only 625,000 people. If these northern provinces were a city, it would be the sixth largest city in Australia, displacing the Gold Coast, which has 638,000 people.
Adding the populations of the Hunter Region to those of the northern provinces takes the total population of New England to around 1.5 million. This is a substantial catchment area to draw upon both for fans and also for players.
But unfortunately the team’s current name might be a limiting factor in appealing to new fans.
Firstly, calling it Newcastle makes it sound like it only represents a small market, like calling a Tasmanian team Hobart just because of where they might be based. Then you have ‘United’ thrown in, which mimics the name of Newcastle United in England. Finally, you’ve got the name Jets tacked on at the end, which makes it sound like a plastic American franchise team when in reality it’s actually a plastic Australian franchise team – in fact they only added the name Jets to avoid confusion with Newcastle United FC in England, which they could have avoided had they not called themselves United in the first place.
I don’t like the name or branding, but luckily you don’t have to look far for inspiration to find something better.
Rather than Newcastle United Jets, the club should be named New England FC to acknowledge the significance of the size and wealth of the region and the identity of the people who live there. Perhaps what unites these people more than anything and what could motivate them to follow the club is their common resentment of Sydney rule.
By renaming the club as New England it could become a rallying point for all those like-minded people who have had a gutful of Sydney and therefore draw in fans from far and wide. In recent times in Newcastle people have seen the way that the Sydney government sold off their port, the biggest coal port in the world, for $1.75 billion with less than 20 per cent of it coming back to the city, and people in the northern provinces have a long list of grievances as well.
I think it’s fair to say that people across New England are well and truly peeved off with Sydney, and if they had a club to represent them and their views, they would turn out in droves from far and wide to support it. As well as changing the club’s name, they could also change its badge to the rampant lion with sword and crown as was used on the New England New State Movement flag.
If they go back to playing in red and blue stripes, it could also evoke FC Barcelona’s kit and that club’s symbolism for people’s desire for freedom from an oppressive central government. New England FC could become the Barcelona of the A-League.
That kind of rebranding would boost attendance significantly. The derby between New England and Sydney would be bigger than the Big Blue. All it needs is a moniker to match, like ‘The Airing of Grievances’ or maybe something Australian like ‘El Bonza’.
Changing the club’s name and logo is a big call, but I think it would make a big difference and really help boost their attendances. But would they be willing to make that leap?