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Shirt sponsorship challenge for Uefa

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This article has been written by Simon Hines of Sponsorship Today:


In the season 2011/12 the average shirt deal in France's Ligue 1 was estimated at €1.5m per season with Betclic topping the league at €5.5m with its Olympic Marseille sponsorship. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) was reportedly earning €4.9m from Emirates whereas OGC Nice had no shirt sponsor. If news reports are to be believed, a Qatari bank is close to finalising a deal worth €100m per year for shirt and stadium naming rights to PSG.


This will be a serious challenge to UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules which effectively state that clubs must live within their means and cannot be bankrolled by benefactors.


Given that PSG is now owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, a huge sponsorship from a bank based in the Gulf State would, to say the least, cause a few problems for UEFA.


It is therefore worth analysing the potential value of PSG's rights to see whether this would represent a potential breach of the FFP ruling and whether the bank in question is failing in its due diligence.


To put the sum into context, €100 million represents more than three times the entire shirt sponsorship income of Ligue 1 in 2011/12 according to Sponsorship Today's July report European Premier League Soccer which listed all major club deals across Europe.


At the time Barcelona had the largest annual deal in Europe at €32 million per year with the Qatar Foundation, but this has since been surpassed by Manchester United's controversial deal with Chevrolet, which has been reported as peaking at €62 million in 2021.


So how could PSG justify charging such a large amount for a sponsorship? First, the club will point to its raised profile in the past two years with an influx a big name signings and a clear ambition to become a major force in European football.


This is evidenced by the club's growing attendance level, which averaged 42,892 in 2011/12, the highest in France. Given the clear bout of sponsorship inflation in European football recently, there is an argument to say that the club could easily justify doubling its primary rights value. It could also argue that it started from a low base as its Emirates deal was signed in 2008. It might also argue that the club will drive greater interest in French football per se and this will further enhance the value. That said, there is little to suggest that PSG's shirt sponsorship value could exceed €20 million per year, especially given that Chelsea (the European Champions who play in a much more high profile league) has just renewed its deal with Samsung for a similar amount.


The interesting point might be to consider the value of the naming rights element. Here there will be debate. Naming rights are quite rare in France for several reasons, one of which is the municipal, rather than club, ownership of many of the stadia. Furthermore, naming rights are a cultural issue in sport and acceptance varies enormously in different countries. They are readily accepted by fans in the USA, whereas in Europe it is generally considered acceptable only for new build stadia. The exception here is arguably in Germany where major stadia refurbishment in the lead up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup saw several major naming rights deals without any major problems among fans.


France has, however, only one major naming rights deal to date in football, albeit signed in the past two months between Allianz and OGC Nice. The nine-year deal is worth €16.2 million (€1.8m p.a.) and is for a new build stadium. Clearly the stature of PSG would dictate that the rights to the Parc des Princes stadium are more valuable even if they are mitigated by the fact that it is not a new build deal. However surveys have shown that naming rights as a concept (given that they are virtually unheard of in the country) meet more resistance among French fans than in most European countries and this would adversely affect the value.


A comparison of naming rights deals with other leading European clubs shows that a value of the necessary €80 million per year (to reach the total €100 million level) is clearly way off the mark. Bayern Munich and Arsenal receive approximately €6 million per year from Allianz and Emirates respectively, although the latter deal was struck in 2004 and both are now arguably below current market rates.


An interesting comparison can be made with Manchester City, where the naming rights element of the Etihad sponsorship is estimated at €25m. There has been similar criticism of this sponsorship with claims made that the total €50m per year Etihad pays the club is a way of getting round the FFP rules given that Etihad is an Abu Dhabi-based company with links to the company owner Sheikh Mansour. However, given the current sponsorship inflationary cycle, and Manchester City's current global high profile as English Premiership League champions, there is a very strong case to argue that the club is currently receiving no more than market rates. In signing a long-term deal for both naming and shirt rights, they are also perhaps mindful of the situation that Arsenal currently find themselves in and negotiated a deal with room for inflationary growth in five to ten years time.


It is, therefore, perhaps a useful test of PSG's supposed value to make the comparison with Manchester City. If the criticisms of the Man City deal were true, it can be described as at the top end of what the club and sponsor could get away with. If those criticisms aren't true, it represents a realistic market value for a high profile club. Regardless of how the Manchester City deal is measured, the naming rights element is likely to be worth at least 20% more than PSG's given the high profile of the English Premiership and the relatively new stadium, meaning that the Parc de Princes is arguably worth €20 million per season at most.


It is therefore difficult to see how the total sponsorship value for primary shirt and naming rights of PSG could currently exceed €40 million per season. As such, UEFA will be under huge pressure from other clubs to scrutinise this deal if it is to enforce FFP.