Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, has questioned whether Manchester City's record £400m sponsorship deal is merely a ploy to sidestep Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations.
The Malaysian capital is becoming a centre for anti-City sentiment as deep as any corner of Old Trafford. The week in Kuala Lumpur began with Arsène Wenger launching an attack on what he called City's "financial doping". It ended with Ayre wondering how an airline and a club, both owned by members of the Abu Dhabi royal family, could not be a "related party", which, under financial fair play would prevent them doing business with each other.
Under Uefa's regulations, teams that incur aggregate losses of more than €45m (£39.5m) over three years face exclusion from European competition in 2014. Manchester City's annual losses last year ran to almost three times that. The "related party" clause of the agreement means that clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, who are dependent on their benefactors, cannot get round the regulations by sponsoring themselves to wipe out the losses.
Etihad Airways, like Manchester City, are owned by the same Bin Zayed family who rule the emirate. "Is Etihad, Manchester City and Sheikh Mansour a related party?"asked Ayre. "If they are, then it's up to Uefa to rule on them. When I spoke at Soccerex earlier this year, I was on a panel about financial fair play. The guys from Uefa who are managing it said there would be a robust and proper process about related-party transactions."
Ayre also doubted whether the 10-year agreement would pass Uefa's test of "fair value". Even though the deal includes redevelopment around the stadium, Ayre wondered how Etihad, which has never made a profit, could derive this much commercial value from naming a ground that even when it was officially known as the City of Manchester Stadium was generally called Eastlands.
"It hasn't happened anywhere in Europe where a football club has renamed its existing stadium and it's had real value," he said. "It was called the City of Manchester Stadium or Eastlands for the last nine years and now it's going to be called something else – and someone has attached a huge amount of value to that. I find that odd because there is no benchmark in football that says you can rename your stadium and generate that amount of value."Reuse content