City to test Uefa’s new laws with naming rights deal

MANCHESTER CITY are closing in on a record £100m sponsorship deal which will see Etihad Airways take the naming rights to the City of Manchester Stadium.

Any agreement will enhance the ambitious Abu Dhabi owned club’s chances of meeting Uefa’s soon to be imposed financial fair play laws (FFP).

City, involved in the Champions League for the first time this year, could bank an estimated £10-£15m a year from the airline and possibly even more.

The naming rights could provide an early test, however, for Uefa’s FFP panel, which requires any sponsorship deal with a party related to the club’s owners to pass a “fair value” test.

City have been trying to increase their revenue to meet new criteria but Etihad’s links to the club’s owners will almost certainly mean Uefa seek to gain assurances that the airline has not paid significantly over the odds.

The new rules apply from next season, although Uefa will not begin assessing club accounts until the 2013-14 season.

At that stage the licensing unit require clubs to break even subject to an “acceptable deviation” of £40m over that period.

City’s last financial figures showed a loss of £121m and that figure could be even higher when the next statement is published in October. Etihad already pay £2.3m a year as the club’s shirt sponsor and, if everything is approved, the deal should go a long way to smoothing the club’s thinking in terms of the new financial rules.