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7 March 2012, 12:01
Newcastle United fans are offering to pay a £100 fine handed to a man who admitted painting graffiti on a wall at St James' Park
Unemployed barman Michael Atkinson, who's 30 and from Newbiggin Hall, was caught by police writing "St James'' on Newcastle United's newly-renamed Sports Direct Arena at just before 2am on February 17th, after becoming enraged by the decision.
Magistrates in Newcastle handed him a conditional discharge and told him to pay £100 towards the £187 clean-up costs after he pleaded guilty to criminal damage.
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley switched the historic St James's Park name for the Sports Direct Arena - his sports store brand - with a view to bringing in a top brand sponsorship deal.
Outside court, Graeme Cansdale of NUFC Fans United said supporters have approached the umbrella organisation offering to help Atkinson cover the cost of his protest.
Mr Cansdale said:
"I think a lot of people would say Mike Ashley has vandalised the club by writing 'Sports Direct Arena' all over the stadium - for free.''
Alan Wilson, defending, said:
"On reflection he accepts he was wrong and it won't happen again.''
Since he was arrested, he has been banned from attending Newcastle United games by the club.
Chairman of the bench Adrian Hadden said:
"I am not making any comment about the renaming of the stadium. You may have strong views on the matter, but what you did was a criminal act and I think you accept that.''
The life-long Newcastle fan said outside court:
"I don't really regret it but I won't do it again. It would be daft to get nicked for the same thing.''