Around this time last summer, Manchester City, owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, signed the richest sponsorship deal in the history of sports with Etihad Airways, owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family. This was seen as a convenient and somewhat blatant way for a big-spender to get around UEFA's impending Financial Fair Play rules, which require clubs to balance their books and break even, with the help of a friend (or family). Well, thanks to a freshly signed deal with Gazprom Energy, Chelsea may be showing that at least two can play that game (PSG will likely also join in once they stop laughing so hard).
Gazprom, Russia's largest company, signed a three-year deal with a value deemed "commercially confidential" to become Chelsea's global energy partner. So who cares? Well, this isn't the first time Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has done business with government-owned Gazprom.
From the Telegraph:
Uefa's rules demand clubs must not accept inflated sponsorship deals from "related parties". Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, sold his controlling stake in the oil company Sibneft to Gazprom for £8.4 billion in 2005 and Uefa rules define related-party transaction as including those with "significant influence" over clubs' sponsors.
"Significant influence is the power to participate in the financial and operating policy decisions of an entity, but is not control over those policies," the rules state. "Significant influence may be gained by share ownership, statute or agreement."
But if Man City could get away with their world-record Etihad deal, Chelsea's Gazprom agreement should pass inspection since Abramovich selling his old company to this new sponsor doesn't quite as blatantly suggest "significant influence" as, you know, being family. And in a move that could keep any UEFA sticklers from getting too nosey about anything, Gazprom last week announced "an agreement with UEFA to become an official partner of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup for the next three seasons," according to Chelsea's official website.
Though Chelsea got a sizable boost towards breaking even from taking in €59.9 million in prize money for winning the Champions League and also have other freshly signed sponsorship deals with Audi, Sauber F1 and Delta Airlines, the Gazprom deal just might be the one that eases any concerns about complying with FFP as they continue to shop in the summer transfer window.
So, the sky is blue, water is wet and professional football continues to be influenced by money, as it always has been.