Be prepared for Emirates Santiago Bernabeu?
Real Madrid announced recently that they have signed a 5 year sponsorship deal with Emirates. The Emirates Group, popular mostly for its airline, is a company owned by the Sheikh of Dubai, one of the emirates (state/province) of the UAE. A lot of people though were confused about what is it exactly they are sponsoring. Nobody knows really, but here’s what I know from various websites, forums, socios from Twitter, etc.
A little background about Emirates first. Like mentioned earlier, Emirates is famous for their airline, which is the biggest brand in the middle east, and is among the top few in the world as well. The Sheikh who owns Emirates has always had a fascination for sports and that is why you see them involved in many sports. I am Indian, and Cricket is quite popular here, and their stamp on even Cricket is apparent with their sponsorship deal with the ICC (FIFA Equivalent, in more ways than one). This firm also was instrumental in getting A1 Grand Prix going, for those who are aware of the motor racing circuit, this name will ring a bell. Dubai Derby in horse racing, Emirates New Zealand in yacht racing, and also lot of teams in Rugby are some of the sponsorship Emirates deals with. Closer to known waters, they are also involved with some major football sponsorship. In terms of shirts, AC Milan, newly rich PSG, Hamburg are some names that come to mind. They have also been involved with FIFA. But their biggest commitment is of course, with Arsenal. With Arsenal they have sponsored the club, stadium, as well as shirts. Back then, what seemed like a large sum at 90 million pounds for 15 years, is in today’s world not that big, especially in the light of Manchester City’s sparkling new deal with Etihad airways, another Emirati airline, but one of Abu Dhabi.
So what are Emirates actually sponsoring? One thing is for sure, it is definitely not the shirt. BWIN’s deal still runs through next year and word is that it will get renewed another term. Why wouldn’t you, when they pay 20 something millions a year, even though it makes the majestic white look a tad ugly. In terms of aesthetics I don’t think Emirates would look much better either, colour combination and all that considered. What then are they interested in? There are a lot of other sponsors Real has Audi, Adidas, Solaria et al, which pumps in money into variable aspects. This could very well be one of those things that are a healthy source of income but of not much significance to the casual football fan. Such a thing though, would have never called for an article like this. A couple of Spanish websites I read, and a few folks I follow on Twitter, who are socios of the club, have been musing for the past few months on Emirates probably playing a bigger role than say Audi.
One drastic thought was, the re-branding of our home stadium, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. This is huge, and in all likelihood isn’t going to happen, anytime in the near future. But in the modern world of money football, you only wonder how long it will be till this becomes a regular thing. I follow a bit of the NBA and I know this has become a regular practice in the states. I was enlightened by a Madridista on Twitter yesterday that as common as it maybe, initially it did face resistance, and as I predicted, it would be from baseball, which seems to a non-fan as a sport that has most history, and therefore is comparable to the European football scenario. But eventually, people realised that is a great source of income, and there could be workarounds like naming the stadium partially instead of something like say, Staples Center. One of the names doing the rounds in our context was Emirates Santiago Bernabeu. This way, the midpoint is maintained, people still call it the Bernabeu, the whole ‘history’ behind the name is not lost, plus Emirates is happy, thus Flo is happy as he gets his Dirhams. But like I said, this may not happen, what may though, according to the aforementioned Spaniards is other contribution related to architecture. They will, apparently, sponsor the upcoming Real Madrid theme park near Valdebebas and also take care of renovations of a certain areas of the Bernabeu. The amount mentioned in this regard is close to 15 million euros a year.
Another completely out of the blue report seems to suggest that they will be our ‘media partners’ and also our official airline, and that the deal will fetch us about 5 million euros a year, which is significantly lesser than the sum quoted above with regards to the stadium. This would again put Emirates in the bracket of ‘the other sponsors’, and wouldn’t mean much to us. All things considered, it is highly possible that the Emirates deal is just this, and the talk on the periodicos are going to be just that. Or it could be the first step towards a longer and a more rewarding tie-up.
However what we must note is that new deals mean more money. More income means, better equipped we are to face the UEFA Fairplay Policies, and continue signing galacticos. As you may have read from the Neymar mediatico guest article, a lot of thought has gone in to possibly signing him for reasons that pertain to more than just football. The guy is a money making machine all over the world. In my personal, biased view, he is the first one since the great R9 that has the potential to change the landscape of football by being a power star, kind of what Micheal Jordan was to Basketball and Nike. A lot of critics try to rip apart Real Madrid for overspending, almost without forethought, but as this brilliant article by Kieron O’Connor, more popular as Swiss Ramble, points out that our money generating system is second to none, and deals like this one, go a long way in making sure we remain at that level. What are your thoughts on this? Could we be reading too much into a regular sponsorship deal? Could we see the stadium renaming that I mentioned earlier? Is it an inevitable change? Any thoughts on this is more than welcome. On that note, hop over to Soccernet to read Corey’s start there, and have a great weekend. PS- Zizou, GG_Gal and Evo, have a great time at Leicester, come back with pictures for the blog.