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Manchester City and CAA seek Etihad shirt sponsor replacement

Premier League champions Manchester City aims to sell the front-of-shirt sponsorship rights currently held by the Abu Dhabi state carrier Etihad Airways, SportBusiness can reveal.

SportBusiness understands that the CAA Sports agency, which was appointed in January 2018 by the club’s ownership group City Football Group to develop global partnerships, is looking to source the new shirt sponsor.

It thought that taking Etihad off the jersey and finding a new sponsor could raise about £50m (€59.1m/$65.6m) per year for the club. Etihad will look towards other sponsorship platforms to promote its brand.

Etihad has been the club’s main shirt sponsor since 2009, one year after Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family took over the club.

The current deal was bundled with the stadium naming rights and other City assets in a 10-year agreement from 2011-12 to 2020-21, which has been controversially linked to Sheikh Mansour’s ownership interests.

In a report published in today’s Guardian newspaper, sponsorships from companies in Abu Dhabi have been linked to even greater breaches of Fifa Fair Play (FFP) rules than initially reported six years ago.

Read this: Uefa officially opens investigation into Manchester City

The breaches relate to sponsorship payments made by certain Abu Dhabi-based companies that allegedly concealed the extent of City’s financial losses in 2012 and 2013.

Today’s report reveals: “Uefa concluded City had made losses totalling approximately €180m in 2012 and 2013, vastly exceeding the €45m FFP maximum deficit allowed, provided those losses were covered by an owner.”

The Guardian said that consultants advised Uefa that the Etihad deal was not considered too excessive, but the sponsorship came under further scrutiny in November 2018. At that time, Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper published evidence which suggested “Sheikh Mansour was largely funding the Etihad sponsorship deal himself, unknown to Uefa,” the article said.

A second investigation into City’s FFP compliance is expected to be completed this week.