Date: 16th July 2011 at 12:10am
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Eastlands empty

Whatever the name it'll still be half empty

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, or should that be the City of Manchester stadium if we’re to believe the likes of Arsene Wenger and Liverpool FC’s managing director Ian Ayre.

Manchester City’s ground naming deal with Etihad Airlines has been the subject of much controversy and the debate looks set to rumble on.

The Guardian reports:

“Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, has joined Arsène Wenger in questioning the legality of Manchester City’s record sponsorship deal with Etihad. Speaking in the Malaysian capital, where earlier in the week the Arsenal manager had said that City’s new agreement raised “the real question about the credibility of financial fair play”, Ayre also queried the £400m deal.
“Under financial fair play, clubs cannot avoid the requirement to stay below aggregate losses of €45m (£39.5m) a year by effectively sponsoring themselves with what are known as related payments. Since Etihad, an airline that has the same number of aircraft as Flybe and has never declared a profit, is owned by the same Bin Zayed family that rules the emirate and owns Manchester City, Ayre believes it is a related deal and has called on Uefa to investigate the matter further.

“When I spoke at Soccerex earlier this year I was on a panel about financial fair play,” Ayre said. “The guys from Uefa said there would be a robust and proper process about related-pay transactions. Is Etihad, Manchester City and Sheikh Mansour a related party? If they are, then it’s up to Uefa to rule on them.”

“The other test the Etihad sponsorship would have to overcome is whether it represents “fair value”. Manchester City have pointed out that the £40m a year arrangement also provides for redevelopment work around Eastlands as well as shirt sponsorship and naming rights. However, Ayre questioned whether the naming rights to any stadium – especially one that already has a name – are worth anything like the money the airline has agreed to pay.”

It’s no real surprise that rival club’s are questioning City’s Etihad deal, after all everyone always expected Stockport’s finest to find a way around the new spending regulations. The likes of Liverpool and Arsenal realise that despite having a bigger global brand and higher earning power, they won’t be able to outspend City when the new rules come in, thanks to the Eithad deal.

Whether UEFA act remains to be seen, but it makes a rather amusing change seeing three of our main rivals slinging mud at one another rather than us for a change.