Club scores Emirates own goal

The British football team that has named its new home the Emirates Stadium did not consult the airline before signing a controversial deal with the government of Israel, Campaign has been told.

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By  Tim Addington Published  March 5, 2006

The British football team that has named its new home the Emirates Stadium did not consult the airline before signing a controversial deal with the government of Israel, Campaign has been told. London’s Arsenal Football Club pulled off one of the world’s biggest sponsorship deals when it named its new ground after the airline in return for a reported US$100 million. But last week the club signed a two-year, US$600,000 deal with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which will see the country become the official travel destination for the English side. The move is politically sensitive because the UAE has no official diplomatic ties with Israel and Emirates — the Middle East’s biggest sports sponsor — is owned by the Dubai government. And the airline has contradicted the club’s claims that it talked to Emirates beforehand. Keith Edelman, managing director at Arsenal, claimed: “Before we strike any deal, we discuss it with our partners. This was the situation here as well.” But Mike Simon, senior vice president of corporate communications at Emirates, said the airline had not been asked beforehand. He said: “I would say we were told about it rather than being consulted.” As part of the Israel agreement, advertisements will be shown on digital boards around the pitch, as well as being broadcast on 450 LCD screens throughout the ground. Banner ads will also run on the club’s website and be carried in its magazine. Simon conceded: “From our point of view, we didn’t buy the club, we only sponsored it. We can’t control which advertisers they use, as long as it doesn’t affect our sponsorship. It is a decision Arsenal has made, we can’t dictate who and who not they chose. “It is something that we don’t make a habit of trying to be alongside. It is not our decision. This is a London-based club and they can sell their advertising space as long as it is not in direct competition with Emirates, and these people are not direct competition to us.” But Arsenal’s decision to accept Israel’s sponsorship has been called “unwise” by sports marketing experts. Donal Kilalea, CEO and executive vice president at Promoseven Sports Marketing, said: “You should always be aware of other sponsors, and if I were Arsenal, I wouldn’t have done it. “It doesn’t fit as far as I’m concerned and it might deter other potential sponsors. I think it was unwise.” And Alun James, managing director at FourGritti Sports and Sponsorship in London, said the Israel deal is likely to have been negotiated by a more junior member of the sales team. “If you have an airline as sponsor, you wouldn’t chose a destination where that airline doesn’t fly to. It seems to me that someone has done a sales deal and I don’t think they have consulted the powers above as to what the implications are. Whatever happens, there are likely to be some intangible ramifications of the deal for Arsenal.” Emirates signed a 15-year deal with Arsenal that will see the stadium become known as the Emirates Stadium.

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