Chelsea Football Club agrees 'ground-breaking' sponsorship deal with Burmese whisky firm


In the latest indication of the changes sweeping through Burma, Chelsea Football Club has agreed what it says is a ground-breaking sponsorship deal with one of the country's leading producers of whiskey.

In exchange, Grand Royal - produced by a tycoon who once had links to Burma's former military dictator - will be advertised using the Chelsea logo and images of the club's leading stars.

In a statement, Adrian New, managing director of Chelsea FC Asia said: "Chelsea Football Club [is] very excited to be able to announce a partnership between Europe's number one club and Burma's number one whisky brand...[We are] are delighted to have been able to agree this deal as the club has many millions of fans in the country. We know the Premier League is followed avidly, and this partnership will enable our supporters to engage more actively with the club."

Chelsea has declined to say how much the two-year deal is worth but the club believes that the democratic changes taking place in Burma and the easing of sanctions has created new business opportunities in a country that was once effectively off-limits.

Many Burmese love football. Indeed, one of the favourite pastimes for men in cities such as Rangoon - at least for those who can afford it - is to gather in bars and drink whiskey mixed with water while watching the Premier League and other international football. This will be the first time Chelsea has ever endorsed an "official whisky".

But Chelsea says the arrangement is not just about developing business. As part of its corporate social responsibility outreach, Chelsea will look to help develop Burma's local football league and to organise coaching sessions and even nutrition classes.

Grand Royal, reportedly one of Burma's most favoured whiskies, is the flagship brand of International Beverages Trading Company Limited (IBTC), which also produces Myanmar Beer and is owned by businessman Aung Moe Kyaw, who owns the local Okkthar United FC team. No-one from IBTC could today be contacted for comment.

Mr Kyaw was a founding member of the Myanmar National Football League in 2009 with eight teams representing different states. According to a US diplomatic cable released in 2010 by WikiLeaks, the league was established at the suggestion of a powerful businessman,  Zaw Zaw, and the grandson of the then military ruler Than Shwe. Than Shwe's grandson had initially asked that the regime spend $1bn to buy Manchester United but the military strongman thought that setting up a professional league of its own was a cheaper option.

The cable said that select Burmese businessmen were told that Than Shwe had "chosen" them to be the owners of the new professional teams.

Asked why the businessmen would agree to such an arrangement, one source said: "When the the Senior General asks someone to do something, you do it with no complaints."

Yet the cable also noted that some team owners - Mr Kyaw among them - took their roles more seriously. He even sponsored the 2009 national cup final. Last year, Burmese activists in the US asked that Mr Kyaw's name be added to a list of the "regime's cronies" facing US sanctions because of their support to the regime but the request was not taken up.

Since the suspension of most Western trade and travel sanctions earlier this year, companies have been lining up to do business in Burma, where Chinese, Thai, Indian and South Korean firms have had a head-start of many years. The head of the purportedly civilian government, Thein Sein, has recently returned from a visit to the US where he gave an historic address before the UN.

In his speech, Thein Sein praised the efforts of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to bring democracy to his country. Burma's president acknowledged there were still many problems including poverty, ethnic conflict and the gap between rich and poor, but he added: "Within a short time, the people of Myanmar have been able to bring about amazing changes. They have been taking tangible, irreversible steps in the democratic reform process. Myanmar, is now ushering in a new era."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn