Girona sign Etihad Airways deal; await UCL clearance

LaLiga side Girona, whose majority owners are the City Football Group [CFG], have announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time ever this season.

Etihad Airways will replace Gosbi, a Catalan pet store, on the front of Girona’s shirts from the start of the 2024-25 campaign.

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The Abu Dhabi-based airline is also the main sponsor for several other teams who form part of CFG’s network, including flagship club Manchester City, New York City and Melbourne City.

“Girona are a club that resonate with our brand values and aspirations,” Arik De, Etihad Airway’s chief revenue and commercial officer said.

“This sponsorship is a testament to our dedication to the Spanish and Catalan market and our aim to strengthen the bonds between the UAE and Spain.”

The agreement comes on the back of an historic season for Girona, who finished third in LaLiga with 81 points and secured Champions League qualification for the first time in the club’s 94-year history.

However, they are still awaiting UEFA clearance to play in next season’s competition due to partner club Manchester City also qualifying, sources have told ESPN.

Girona, who are 47% owned by CFG, are one of 13 teams within the group and their qualification alongside the Premier League champions has raised a potential conflict with the multi-club ownership rule within Article 5 of the UEFA club competitions regulations.

The Catalan club will have to outline their position and organisational independence from City at a UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) meeting this summer before being cleared to play in the Champions League.

AP, meanwhile, have reported that CFG have been offered two divestment options to allow both teams to compete in the same competition.

It is reported they could either sell shares to an independent third party that reduces one ownership stake to below 30% or transfer all shares in one club to a blind trust overseen by a panel appointed by UEFA.

RB Leipzig and FC Salzburg, both owned by the Red Bull Group, have been cleared to play together in the Champions League in recent seasons, while last July, UEFA accepted the admission of several clubs into its competitions despite concerns over potential shared ownership issues.

Aston Villa and Vitoria, Brighton and Union Saint-Gilloise and AC Milan and Toulouse were all cleared to participate in UEFA competitions following a CFCB hearing.

A source told ESPN Tuesday’s Etihad agreement is unlikely to be scrutinised for anything other if it has been executed at fair market value and that it would be unlikely to prove it is a related party transaction.

There is no direct crossover between CFG and Etihad Airways, with the latter owned by a state controlled Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.

Sources close to Girona are optimistic the club will be allowed to compete in the Champions League next season.

The players embarked on an open-top bus tour through the city on Sunday to celebrate qualifying for the competition under the slogan: “Girona, Champions [League] territory.”

The parade ended in the city centre at the town hall, with the players emerging on the balcony to greet the thousands of supporters who had come out to see them.