Beyond belief

Arsenal's deal with Israel, after its Emirates agreement, makes no sense at all. The events at English premiership soccer club Arsenal over the past few days are nothing short of extraordinary, and amount to a huge slap in the face for Emirates Airline.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  March 5, 2006

|~||~||~|Arsenal's deal with Israel, after its Emirates agreement, makes no sense at all. The events at English premiership soccer club Arsenal over the past few days are nothing short of extraordinary, and amount to a huge slap in the face for Emirates Airline. Even the world’s worst public relations advisor couldn’t have done a worse job at Arsenal. Let us recap the chain of events. In November 2004, Emirates Airline signed a US$180 million deal with Arsenal – the largest of its kind. And it was a great deal. In return for the cash, Arsenal would name their brand new stadium Emirates Stadium for the next 15 years, and would also stick the Emirates Airline logo on the team’s shirts for a period of eight years. All this would start from August this year. The reason the deal took a while to kick in is that the small matter of building the new stadium needed to take place, something which the Emirates Airline US$180 million cash came in rather handy for. Since then, Emirates Airline officials have rightly been looking forward to the big kick off – the day when all their top brass could be paraded at the magnificent new stadium. We now learn that also on parade at the new stadium will be gigantic television screens promoting tourism in Israel. The deal was announced in Tel Aviv, with Israel’s Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson bragging that Arsenal will now be the “exclusive” soccer club promoting his country. This deal has brought Arsenal US$300,000. Not a lot by any calculation. Yet it is hugely expensive. And grossly insensitive. And it comes at a time when Emirates Airline has been scratching its head over the deal, wondering whether it may have paid too much. Arsenal look certain to miss out on the lucrative Champions League tournament next season, denying Emirates Airline unprecedented exposure on television. Some experts are now suggesting that when broken down, the deal is nearly 25% more expensive than that which Samsung has signed with arch rivals Chelsea. And far, far more than what Etihad Airways may pay for a deal with Manchester United. Sadly for Emirates Airline, this is a done deal. The cash has been paid up, and spent. But that doesn’t take away the bitter pill Emirates Airline must be swallowing today.||**||Saved by the bond|~||~||~|Every day in the Middle East we hear about how to spend cash. On luxury goods, cars, property, shares… you name it, there is a way to spend it. Which is why it is so refreshing to see the launch, in the UAE last week, of the world’s first Shari’a compliant national savings bond scheme. The scheme will offer both residents and non-residents the opportunity to save safely for a rainy day, as well as the chance to win millions of dirhams in monthly prize draws. I am very impressed: The venture has been launched by a private shareholding company, National Bonds Corporation (NBC), with a host of prestigious shareholders, including Dubai Bank, Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties. NBC will perform the first prize draw in May at the Dubai Financial Market. I think that Nasser bin Hassan Al Shaikh, vice chairman and CEO of NBC, hit the nail on the head when he said that the new scheme would help nurture “a culture of savings responsibility” in the Gulf. About time.||**||Power point|~||~||~|I have been inundated all week with calls from readers asking for more details on the Power List which we published last week. It appears many of you are unhappy. No, not with the list, but the fact we only published the top fifty names. Most of the callers would like to see at least the top 100 published. I will decide that later in the year, but in the meantime I should reflect the comments of many readers: which is that the publication of the Power List proves beyond any doubt that the spread of Arab influence around the world is greater than ever. And I mean that in a very positive way. Let us hope that what we are seeing is the championing of Arab brilliance in literature, academia, music, film, business and medicine. Incidentally, if we were to publish all the names we initially examined on our database, the list would come to well over 700. And it is a database, I am pleased to report, which is growing by the day.||**||

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