Uefa to examine Abu Dhabi ties in City's £400m sponsors deal

 

Manchester City may have to prove that their Abu Dhabi owner is not "influenced" by his half-brother, who chairs Etihad Airways, if their £400m sponsorship deal with the emirate's national airline is to avoid failing one of the key tests of the Uefa Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Though Liverpool's owner John W Henry, who is clearly deeply unhappy with the transparency of the Etihad deal, backed Arsenal manger Arsène Wenger's criticism of the deal as "financial doping" yesterday, City are comfortable that it represents "fair value" and is not simply a means of the Abu Dhabi royal family, which founded Etihad, artificially inflating the balance sheet of the club owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan and enabling it to meet the FFP rules.

However, detailed analysis of Uefa's 91-page Licensing and Fair Play regulations by The Independent reveals that the family relationships between City and its sponsor may fall foul of Uefa's "related party" test. Uefa will consider that club and sponsor are related parties if a family relationship exists. The rules stipulate that a club will fail the "related party" test if money comes in from a "close member" of the club owner's family who "has significant influence over the [club]".

It will be for City to demonstrate that several members of Sheikh Mansour's family who have been integral to Etihad do not exert that influence over him. They are the sheikh's elder half-brother, the Abu Dhabi ruler and UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who founded the airline, Etihad chairman, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and vice-chairman Sheikh Kaled, both half-brothers.

Uefa will come under intense pressure to submit the £40m-a-year Etihad deal, the largest in world sport, to rigorous scrutiny when FFP comes into force, for the 2013-14 season, with some Premier League owners readying themselves to press the organisation to disallow any income from related parties.

Liverpool's owner, Henry, first hinted at his displeasure with the Etihad deal at the weekend when he tweeted: "How much was the losing bid?" The inference was that City had not sought any other potential sponsors because they wanted only an inflated deal from Etihad. After Wenger joined the debate on Tuesday, accusing City of disrespecting FFP rules by not adhering to the market price in their Etihad deal, Henry commented again yesterday: "A club's best player has to be worth at least 10 per cent of your naming rights," he said. "Mr Wenger says boldly what everyone thinks."

There is scepticism in some rival Premier League boardrooms about the fact that Etihad, who have yet to make a profit in their seven-year history and have a similar-sized fleet of planes as Flybe, are paying such a colossal sum. But one of the leading lawyers in the FFP field, Daniel Geey of Field Fisher Waterhouse, said that even if the deal fell foul of related party rules, it could still be deemed acceptable if Uefa considered it to represent fair value. "The first hurdle is whether the Etihad deal can be deemed a related party transaction. Only if it is will an economic judgment have to be taken to assess whether it is fair value," Mr Geey said.

Etihad's financial performance certainly has no relevance to the size of the deal and City do appear to have a strong "fair value" case, based on the fact that they have broken new ground in the way the deal is constructed. They are also planning a vast redevelopment project on land adjacent to their stadium which accrues new sponsorship opportunities for what will become the "Etihad Campus".

City have not disclosed the breakdown of their 10-year deal but they could argue that £20m is fair value for a shirt deal, given that Standard Chartered deliver that sum to Liverpool and that, globally, City are currently a more viewed club than Liverpool in terms of live games screened. If £20m is City's shirt figure, that leaves £15m between the stadium and the campus – the deal is £35m a year in its initial stages, rising to £40m. Wenger's decision to intervene raises the question of how good a piece of business the north London club's own deal with Emirates was, in 2004. They now find themselves locked into a 15-year, £90m contract, for shirt and stadium, until 2019.

As The Independent revealed last month, midfielder Patrick Vieira has decided to retire from the game and is expected to be revealed as a coach and club ambassador at City today.

Vieira had discussions with Arsenal about a role at the Emirates but the club did not propose anything concrete. Despite his having played nine years at Arsenal and 18 months at City, manager Roberto Mancini gets his services. The 35-year-old is expected in Los Angeles with the City pre-season tour, where he will explain his decision next week.

Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam