Who owns the name? Fandom, social inequalities and the contested renaming of a football club in Timişoara, Romania
Recent scholarship in critical toponymy has raised questions about the impacts on urban residents of selling naming rights and the possibility of contesting the commodification of urban place names. This article examines these issues using Poli Timişoara, the major football team of Timişoara, Romania, as a case study. The cash-strapped local authority sold the naming rights for the team to raise revenue. However, when the club’s private owner was unable to finance the team, the local authority reacquired the naming rights of Poli, now under the name Asociaţia Club Sportiv Poli (a new team with a small fan base). Drawing on the everyday narratives of fans, this article explores how the commodification of a local club name can cause social tensions. This is important for understanding urban residents’ access, or lack thereof, to social capital resources and how this leads to the manifestation of social inequalities which co-determine fans’ reactions and responses to the change in the name of a sports team. The findings suggest that commodifying names can mobilize serious contestations among partisan groups about who owns the name, although such contestations appear to be on uncertain ground because of post-communist urban practices of delayed economic restructuring.
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