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Volume 6 No. 212


Man City Owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's pursuit of the N.Y.-based Major League Soccer franchise points toward "the true objective of Abu Dhabi's sporting portfolio," according to Mark Ogden of the London TELEGRAPH. Abu Dhabi and Man City have "been a huge success story" since Sheikh Mansour bought the club four-and-a-half years ago. Man City, "in the words of the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, might have ‘everything except a beach,’ but it is not Paris and it is certainly not New York." When it comes to propelling Abu Dhabi’s image onto a global scale, the U.S. "is where it’s at for Sheikh Mansour and his advisors." If Sheikh Mansour, "as expected, is announced as the owner" of N.Y. City FC, the MLS expansion franchise which is due to be unveiled on May 25, "where does that leave Manchester City?" In short, "it is unlikely to affect the day-to-day running of the club one iota as there is absolutely no prospect of the sheikh withdrawing his backing in favour of an upstart team in the MLS." Man City has "been unable to match the aggressive commercial growth" of ManU, and the resurgence of Bayern Munich "emphasises the reality that the established superpowers in football are the true magnets for commercial investment on a global scale." Man City, having sold off stadium naming rights, shirt sponsorship and the naming of its new training ground to Etihad, has "yet to attract a similarly lucrative deal" from the U.S. or the Far East, unlike ManU, Bayern and "other big-hitters" such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool. A N.Y. operation would give Abu Dhabi, and Man City "a foothold in the States." It would also "increase the prospect" of the kind of American investment which has enabled the Glazers to turn ManU "into such a financial powerhouse" (TELEGRAPH, 4/30).

N.Y. STATE OF MIND: In London, Ian Herbert reported the MLS franchise "would give the owners a huge commercial opportunity to begin aggressively pushing" the Man City brand in N.Y., where it has "a strong community presence." The notion of a presence for the club in N.Y. "was first floated" by former Man City CEO Garry Cook three years ago. With ManU "continuing to wield huge financial power" and now listed on the N.Y. Stock Exchange, Man City CEO Ferran Soriano declared in the club's annual report in December that "new, creative ideas and business models" would be required to undertake a "historic transformation" of the club. A N.Y. franchise "would also create the chance to develop young players" for Man City and "to establish the deposed champions as New York's Premier League team." The idea of having an MLS team owned by one of the most important football clubs in Europe, which "are themselves seeking to dominate the continental game," is seen as "a huge boost to attempts to broaden the footprint of the sport" in the U.S. (INDEPENDENT, 4/30). With a stadium yet to be built for the new team that would join MLS in '16, the $100M cost of securing the licence could result in an overall investment of $500M "due to costs associated with constructing a stadium" (TELEGRAPH, 4/30).

HOME HUNTING: In N.Y., Filip Bondy reported N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg “may be a lame duck, but he’s still the city’s leading hawk when it comes to stadium and arena construction” as MLS looks to build a stadium in Queens for a new franchise. MLS officials “believe the political deal must be completed” for the stadium while Bloomberg is “still in office.” Negotiations are ongoing between Mansour and MLB N.Y. Mets owners “for use of that team’s parking lot.” Mansour’s offer “could come to naught, however, if MLS doesn’t gain approval quickly from the City Council and state legislators.” There is “substantial opposition from Flushing area residents who fear the parkland and neighborhoods will be adversely affected,” as well as “resistance from the borough’s gay community, which wants no part” of Mansour, who hails from the UAE, where homosexuality is criminalized (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). In London, Ian Ladyman reported with Man City "acutely aware of UEFA's new Financial Fair Play rules, they need to explore every revenue stream." The club is "investigating ways of partnering" with clubs in Mexico, China and elsewhere in Asia, "as a way of developing" the Man City brand (DAILY MAIL, 4/30).

Newly elected Valencia Foundation Presdient and La Liga side Valencia majority shareholder Aurelio Martínez indicated that "he will emphasize completing the team's new stadium and following an athletic and economic model" similar to what Borussia Dortmund has done in recent years, according to SUPERDEPORTE. The German club, which has advanced to the Champions League finals after going bankrupt in '05, "was used as an example" by Martínez to compare the performance in economic and athletic management in recent years with Valencia. Martinez said that "Valencia should be a profitable club because there are investors," but added that the club has to repay its loans, which will require a long-term plan of 15-20 years (SUPERDEPORTE, 4/30).

Scottish Premier League side Heart of Midlothian responded to reports of imminent administration at Tynecastle by claiming that "its finances are under control," according to Barry Anderson of the SCOTSMAN. Club officials "did not deny administration is a possibility amid suggestions that Ukio Bankas administrators in Lithuania are about to call in" up to £15M ($23.3M) of debt. However, Hearts "expect finance agreements with Ukio Bankas Investment Group and Ukio Bankas to continue." Vladimir Romanov, the club’s majority shareholder, "claims to be bankrupt and has been powerless to stop Lithuanian authorities shutting down his bank and splitting up its assets." The future of Hearts "is at stake as any major recall of debt would force the Edinburgh club into administration, with the knock-on effects including a points deduction and possible relegation from the Scottish Premier League" (SCOTSMAN, 4/30). In Glasgow, Fraser Wilson wrote responding to reports of imminent administration, a statement on the club's website read: "The club has been made aware of rumours concerning the possibility of administration. The club will continue to do everything within its power to trade normally. The club is completely up to date with player salaries and taxes and the club continues to head toward operational self sustainability" (DAILY RECORD, 4/30).