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Jul 13, 2011

Wenger questions City deal

Arsene Wenger believes Manchester City's new sponsorship deal threatens to undermine the credibility of UEFA's Financial Fair Play plan.

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UEFA president Michel Platini is bringing in rules to prevent clubs spending beyond their means and limiting the contributions of wealthy owners, and it was felt that City - who lack the marketing appeal of the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United - would struggle to comply with the regulations.

However, City have been boosted by their the record sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines, which sees the stadium renamed, the shirt sponsorship extended, and the company given input into a forthcoming training centre close to the ground close to the stadium.

Reports have put the value of the deal between £300 million and £400 million. With Etihad being Abu Dhabi's airline, and City owner Sheikh Mansour coming from the capital of the United Arab Emirates, some have suggested the figure has been artificially inflated.

Arsenal agreed a far inferior sponsorship deal with Emirates airline in 2004, and Wenger believes the apparent enormity of City's agreement indicates an attempt to get around the UEFA regulations.

"It raises the real question about the credibility of the Financial Fair Play," he said. "They give us the message that they can get around it by doing what they want. The difficulty and the credibility of the Financial Fair Play is at stake.

"If Financial Fair Play is to have a chance, the sponsorship has to be at the market price. It cannot be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. If they bring the rules in they have to be respected.

"He [Platini] is very strongly determined on that. He is not stupid, he knows that some clubs will try to get around that.

"At the moment I believe they are studying, behind closed doors, how they can really strongly check it. That is his big test."

A City spokesman has since denied the deal is as valuable as claimed and dismissed Wenger's remarks as "unfounded and regrettable".

"The financial details of the comprehensive agreement announced last week between Manchester City and Etihad Airways remain confidential and figures being speculated about are not accurate," a club spokesman said.

"Manchester City is a pro-active member of the European Clubs Association and is working actively and with transparency with regard to Financial Fair Play. In light of these facts, recent comments about the partnership by some observers are unfounded and regrettable."

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