x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Etihad to sponsor Manchester City

Etihad Airways, the UAE's national carrier, yesterday signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with the English football club Manchester City.

From left, Etihad mascot Saif Al Sheikh Khazaal, Mark Hughes, the Manchester City manager, Garry Cook, the football club's chief executive, James Hogan, the Etihad chief executive, and Khalid Al Nahyan, a City mascot, at the City of Manchester Stadium yesterday.
From left, Etihad mascot Saif Al Sheikh Khazaal, Mark Hughes, the Manchester City manager, Garry Cook, the football club's chief executive, James Hogan, the Etihad chief executive, and Khalid Al Nahyan, a City mascot, at the City of Manchester Stadium yesterday.

MANCHESTER // Etihad Airways, the UAE's national carrier, yesterday signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with the English football club Manchester City. In confirming the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in the English Premier League side's history, chief executive Garry Cook said there was no club "more exciting in football right now".

Since the takeover last year by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Manchester City, under the chairmanship of Khaldoon al Mubarak, have worked hard to raise their profile worldwide. The Etihad deal, combined with high-profile player signings expected in the summer and investment in the team's highly respected academy, had the team feeling optimistic, Mr Cook said. "We are blessed [by having such owners]," he said. "We are truly in a position like no other. They are ambitious and they are investing in the club at every level.

"We have to become world-class. The owner wants to build a model for the future. The youth academy, which is an integral part of most football clubs, is essential and it's important to keep building on this." Mr Cook said the work off the pitch had as big an impact as the play on it. "When you look at the infrastructure of a club, it's important to make sure the facilities and capabilities of that club can support success for the future," he said.

"When you bring all those together, there isn't a football club in the world right now as exciting as we are because all of those things have come together at the same time." The Etihad endorsement is expected to be part of a long-term association, with plans in the works to set up a Manchester City academy or soccer school in Abu Dhabi. The value of the shirt sponsorship deal was not disclosed.

Mr Cook said naming rights for the stadium, owned by Manchester City Council, were not discussed. James Hogan, the airline's chief executive, said: "We look forward to winning together. "We both have a strong sense of community and we will work together on building ties between Abu Dhabi and Manchester, especially with youngsters through our highly successful soccer school programmes." The club, though, are aware that success will ultimately be the key factor in their growth.

Mr Cook added: "It is an emotional business, but our owners are very understanding and pragmatic. Expectations are always going to be high. We are going to set a high benchmark and our job is to try to achieve that." Mark Hughes, the team's manager, would not discuss speculation that has linked Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Barry with Eastlands. But, he said: "We are now viewed as an option for top, top players. ... People have a real understanding of what's going to happen here in the future and as a consequence make us more attractive to the top, top players.

"We have the ability to give them success and a profile as they demand." akhan@thenational.ae