Champions ‘ignored warning’ from senior staff over sponsorship deal
Contract posed ‘big risk to City’s reputation’ Club avoided publicising arrangement in Britain
Manchester City ignored warnings from their own staff by striking a sponsorship deal with a construction company accused of mistreating migrant workers, according to leaked documents. As the head of Spain’s La Liga claimed Uefa may be reluctant to take action against City and Paris St-germain for allegedly flouting Financial Fair Play rules because of a “conflict of interest”, City were facing another wave of damaging allegations yesterday.
According to the latest claims from the Football Leaks whistleblowers published by German magazine Der Spiegel, City pushed ahead with a £7 million-a-year regional sponsorship contract with Arabtec, a controversial Dubaibased construction company, despite club staff expressing concerns about the morality of such a deal and the potential impact it would have on their reputation. The disclosures came as Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, defended his role in secretly helping City negotiate a FFP settlement with Uefa.
In the latest allegations to plunge City into turmoil, it is alleged a risk analysis regarding a possible deal with Arabtec was carried out by executives but that, despite the report concluding a partnership with the company would have “significant potential to damage the perception and standing of the club and its owners”, the club struck an agreement regardless, signing a regional contract that would be publicised only in Arab states, Russia and Turkey, where there was considered to be less risk of condemnation.
The BBC had reported in 2009 how poorly Arabtec had treated its employees. Arabtec workers had gone on strike in May 2013, which was said to have resulted “in violence and deportations” and there had also been reports about the dire conditions in Abu Dhabi for migrant workers.
Vicky Kloss, the City director of communications, was said to have sent an email to club executives warning them to avoid a deal. “I think it’s the biggest single risk to [our] reputation we have faced since 2008,” Kloss wrote. “The gap between what we do and what they [Arabtec] do is unbridgeable.”
City have yet to comment and continue to refer to a statement last week in which they said the leaks constituted an “organised and clear” attempt to “damage the club’s reputation”.
Der Spiegel reported last week City and PSG breached FFP rules by €188 million (£164 million) and €215 million respectively in 2014, and tried to cover up the breach using vast sponsorship deals con-
nected to their oil-rich owners that far exceeded their true market value. City have subsequently been accused in more leaked documents of an array of attempts to inflate and backdate sponsorship deals to “deceive” Uefa.
On Friday, Der Spiegel disclosed how Infantino did a secret deal over FFP sanctions with City’s Abu Dhabi owners and Paris St-germain’s Qatari owners while he was general secretary at Uefa. Both clubs escaped with €20 million fines and avoided a Champions League ban. Infantino defended his involvement, telling reporters: “We were doing our job and saved the system and European club football.”
Uefa has yet to comment publicly but Javier Tebas, chief executive of La Liga, fears the European governing body’s links with broadcaster bein Sport, which has committed billions of pounds to televise Champions League matches and other competitions, present an obstacle to Uefa acting. BEIN is owned by the Qatari royal family, who also own PSG. City are owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. “There’s a conflict of interest,” Tebas told The New York Times.