In Depth

Emirates FA Cup: controversy over £30m sponsorship deal

After a season without a sponsor the FA is prepared to sell naming rights to the FA Cup

After failing to find a sponsor this season the FA Cup could be rebranded for the first time in its history in what could prove a controversial £30m deal with Emirates Airlines.

According to The Times a "provisional agreement" has been reached for the competition to be called the Emirates FA Cup for the next three years.

The move is bound to "upset traditionalists" says the paper. It explains that although the competition has had commercial backers before, but says "the FA has always preferred to use 'in association with' or 'sponsored by' rather than a direct naming-rights deal for fear of diluting the competition's identity and heritage".

The FA Cup may be the world's oldest football competition, but the FA's inability to find a sponsor for it this season has been "highly embarrassing", says Charles Sale in the Daily Mail. But the FA commerical department has now realised it "needed to offer more to attract a significant sponsor to the table".

The hunt for a sponsor proved "hugely difficult" claims Sale, but he says that Emirates had "big money" available after pulling the plug on its deal with Fifa in the wake of damaging corruption allegations. It also pulled out of the tender to be the Champions League airline sponsor, paving the way for the deal with the FA.

The FA is also looking for subsidiary sponsors and hopes that the competition will be worth £20m a year by 2018. "Commercial income is vital to the chairman Greg Dyke's plan to refocus the FA's purpose and invest more in grassroots football," says The Guardian.

But granting the sponsor naming rights is an "unprecedented move that could spark controversy", warns the Daily Mirror. A poll on its website found that two thirds of fans thought that the competition should be "sacrosanct".

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