Manchester City have secured permission to sell the naming rights to Eastlands in a move that could dramatically reduce the club's losses. The ground is owned by the city council and the club's board require its authority to sell the name of the City of Manchester Stadium.
Although the council would not comment officially last night it is understood that this permission has been granted. No talks with any sponsor are yet under way. Arsenal raised £100m by signing a 15-year-deal with Emirates in 2006. It is uncertain whether Manchester City could match that figure but any such funds will have a key part to play in the club's attempts to meet Uefa's financial fairplay rules, which come into effect from this summer.
The search for a sponsor will be conducted in a more uncertain economic climate than when Arsenal secured their deal. And because the stadium already has an unofficial name of "Eastlands", the value of the naming rights will be less. Nevertheless, City, who posted losses of £121m last year, have been generously backed by companies associated with Abu Dhabi, especially the Gulf state's official airline, Etihad.
Under the new Uefa rules, which have been enthusiastically pushed through by its president, Michel Platini, clubs who want to take part in European competition have to break even over a three-year rolling period, starting from the 2012-13 season.