With Man City announcing a new sponsorship deal with the Abu Dhabi government, fans across the Premier League have questioned the legitimacy of their arrangement.
City are owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, which is led by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.
The Premier League champions have already seen a host of sponsorship deals agreed with brands in Abu Dhabi, including shirt sponsor Etihad Airways and official partners the Etisalat Group and Visit Abu Dhabi.
It is widely suspected that those deals are inflated by City’s close ties to the UAE, and this has come into light again following a new deal confirmed on Tuesday.
Emirates Palace, owned by the Abu Dhabi government, are now their Official Luxury Hotel Partner – or whatever that means – and fans have responded with scepticism.
Many took to social media on the announcement of the deal to note its convenience for a club that is already enjoying the benefits of a financial gulf.
Liverpool fans were among the most critical…
City announced a new sponsor: Emirates Palace hotel. Who owns the hotel? The Government of Abu Dhabi.
This is what we are competing against in the PL (direct and indirect state subsidies). pic.twitter.com/NUiKFvoGZY
— Parted Beard (@PartedBeard) January 4, 2022
English football is dead. The next winners of the Premier League, that aren’t Man City, will be Newcastle. Might have to find a new hobby. https://t.co/53WFcPsDF7
— Aaron Cutler (@aaron_cutler) January 4, 2022
Loads in the game will hold nose and pretend this kind of deal doesn’t completely skew the playing field in the PL. Life’s easy when the margin for error is huge. What even is a ‘luxury hotel partner’? https://t.co/sBsLnkpSfv
— Si Steers (@sisteers) January 4, 2022
Not dodgy at all this ? https://t.co/biGYTW3sfz
— LFC-Dave (@NotSince95) January 4, 2022
If FSG don't sort our Official Luxury Hotel Partner soon I'm out. https://t.co/fa7C0GCcjf
— Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) January 4, 2022
Bet Sachas are fuming they lost out. https://t.co/mO5uHZyIXK
— Steve Armo ??? (@sarm0161) January 4, 2022
Beyond ridiculous. Only if the @FA and @UEFA actually had the spine to level the playing field. #FFP https://t.co/vK76mO2BrP
— Nav Kaplish (@nkaplish) January 4, 2022
"you know, people ask me 'Pep, are any of the employees at this hotel indentured servants', and I tell them "*I* am a slave. I am a slave to football"" https://t.co/6PbGY8DFRJ
— Horace Goodwill, tonicke purveyor (@eff_hey) January 4, 2022
People can have a go at FSG all they want but this is what we and the rest of the @premierleague are up against.
When a club can sponsor itself you have very little chance.
Plus Newcastle will be doing the same so it's going to be even harder. https://t.co/jHHGCH2HA8
— Norbert be thy name (@Insaniti_LFC) January 4, 2022
I mean you have to respect it, he's not even hiding it anymore, he knows he's a chequebook cheater and he simply doesn't care. https://t.co/DXEnDPf1Ak
— Rowly (@TheFarFarLeft) January 4, 2022
“Emirates put in a bid of £80m per week to become City’s new partner, just edging out Premier Inn and their bid of £120k per month.” [Stu Brennan, MEN] https://t.co/qu3FVUXojr
— Biggies Malls 2.0 (@Biggies_MaIIs) January 4, 2022
But fans of other clubs also joined in…
That deal must be worth around £3bn https://t.co/eHUtINaAhb
— Wayne Barton (@WayneSBarton) January 4, 2022
Financial doping continues https://t.co/7v7XrU32Es
— Tanay ?? (@chel5eafc1) January 4, 2022
Don't you just love modern football ? https://t.co/fMsgbELr21
— Will (@WillNSNO) January 4, 2022
Sponsorships like this are why they got taken to court before. Hands down illegal in terms of FFP. https://t.co/SSAA1OqdsG
— Harry (@Yerdas_in) January 4, 2022
“Pep – if you want Haaland then you better go to the hotel and look fucking amazed” https://t.co/EK4sPCWdFz
— Nic English (@nicwenglish) January 4, 2022
Including City supporters…
OIL MONNNNEEEEYYY ??? https://t.co/AfKVOXP8DK
— Jind (@JindMCFC) January 4, 2022
Haaland money https://t.co/M42V1L5mx4 pic.twitter.com/8GjxAGptlp
— JJ (@TheSkyBluesss) January 4, 2022
Well thats the Haaland money then https://t.co/NJ5MhsSzzh
— Allan (@crystallan21) January 4, 2022
Journalist Tariq Panja, who regularly writes on the business of football and Premier League regulations, asked whether it would be the “first chance for new related party regulations to be tested.”
In December, the English top flight confirmed that they would require clubs to submit any sponsorship proposal worth over £1 million to them to determine whether it was to an ‘associated party’ transaction.
That City have already confirmed the Emirates Palace as a new partner suggests that the Premier League consider the deal legitimate.
But given their history – with an investigation into FFP breaches ongoing – there is every reason to suspect otherwise of the reigning champions.