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Stadium naming rights deal announced

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A little late with thoughts on the news that broke last week but I'm still in catch up mode after some time away the past week or so.

It is a move long rumoured (and something that first came to our attention some time ago) and an obvious one as the club sought to maximise revenues as far as possible in order to take steps to comply with the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations.

From what I have read on the topic there has been little if no resistance to the move from fans as although the club have now settled into the stadium after almost a decade in residence this is not a storied old ground rich in tradition that is undergoing a change - a somewhat different approach altogether of course than if it had been Maine Road that was being rebranded.

The deal - announced at this press conference - appears to have superseded the existing agreement that was solely for the rights to the shirt sponsorship (which came in at just £3.2 million per year - dwarfed by agreements that the likes of United and sports teams in the US have in place).

The MEN estimates that the deal is worth that £300 million in total: not just for the rights for Etihad to be plastered across the stadium but for a range of projects associated with the club, further stating what the deal entails:

The club said the newly-named Etihad Stadium would form the 'centrepiece' of an Etihad Campus including City Square and a large part of the adjacent Sportcity site.

Up to two million visitors are expected a year following City's qualification for the Champions League.

The club and their sponsors will also expand co-operation on business, hospitality and media projects, including increased MCFC content and match coverage included in Etihad's in-flight entertainment.

The clubs official site also has a detailed breakdown of quite how wide the scope of the deal is, one of the intentions clearly being to ramp up the building of 'the brand' on a more worldwide scale. 

Previously Garry Cook stated there would be an 'open dialogue' with football's governing bodies as City strive to comply with the Financial Fair Play regulations. Whilst there have been suggestions that the deal will be subjected to scrutiny it strikes as inconceivable that the agreement announced would be blocked and I would go so far as to suggest UEFA were fully briefed of the make-up of the agreement ahead of the announcement.

There was an interesting article today up on in which backs up the theory that any action from UEFA would be doomed to failure, citing the fact that it is nigh on impossible to determine what market value is because market value is what someone is prepared to pay and they are categoric in their assumption that the deal is not challengeable:

But can these deals realistically be challenged. Sports lawyer Andrew Nixon of Thomas Eggar LLP says: "That's an easy legal question. There are no grounds for objection." He says anyone looking at the deal would have to ask "Is there a viable alternative market place? And the answer here is yes.

"Competition law challenges rarely succeed on sponsorship deals. There is a vast number of football teams and leagues airlines can sponsor and there are many viable market alternatives."

Martin Samuel also questions in the Mail as to precisely what benchmark is in place that UEFA say they will judge the agreement by given there is not a benchmark by which to judge it upon. As Mark Ogden also wrote in The Telegraph, due to the nature of the agreement there is no obvious precedent in which to judge this agreement by whilst Ian Herbert in The Independent states how the deal has come on top of a raft of recent tie-up's as City look to increase revenues in line with other top sides.

The MEN's Stuart Brennan takes this even further, making several strong points as to why UEFA should not be investigating and linking the disquiet over City's growth (off and on the pitch) with a form of protectionism from the 'old guard'.

And to finish, there was a nice piece by Paul Hayward in The Observer, the thrust of which was that a deal such as this is by no means a bad thing but it is important that a benefit to the wider community and a legacy and the BBC also report that the council will receive an additional £20 million over five years, as well as seeing a growth in the number of jobs in the area as a result.