Goal rounds up the top business stories of the week from Soccerex, including news that Malta's tourism minister has denied reports of the valuation of a recent deal between Manchester United and the Malta Tourism Authority, Gianni Infantino's plans for a Women's World League gaining momentum and Manchester City creating an in-house esports show...
Manchester United deal not worth €20m says Malta's tourism minister
Malta’s minister for tourism, Konrad Mizzi, has denied reports claiming the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) will pay close to €20 million (£18m/$22m) over three years for its sponsorship deal with Manchester United.
United agreed a deal with the Maltese government and the MTA earlier in September to promote the country as a tourist destination.
The agreement will see the Visit Malta brand given advertising space at Old Trafford and also publicity via the club’s digital marketing channels.
It was first reported by the Times of Malta on 23 September that the contract is valued at €20m over three years.
However, Mizzi has branded the report as "fake news" in a series of posts on social media, while also describing the valuation of the deal as "meaningless and extraordinary."
The MTA has since released its own statement refuting the Times of Malta report.
"The article is clearly based on the journalist’s own speculation and assumptions, in an attempt to create a negative aura around the partnership agreement concluded between the MTA, Visit Malta, and Manchester United," the statement read.
"Although the cost of the actual partnership is commercially sensitive, the figure invented by the said journalist is a complete fabrication and nowhere close to the actual committed funding, which is in line with the Malta Tourism Authority’s marketing budget."
Gianni Infantino pushing ahead with Women's World League plans
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is continuing to push for the creation of a Women’s World League to help grow the game on the back of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Infantino had his initial attempts to form the new national team tournament blocked inside the organisation but has promised to continue his efforts, arguing that France 2019 highlighted the desire for more elite women’s soccer competitions.
Infantino had first vowed to campaign again for setting up a Women’s World League back in June and reasserted his plans while speaking at a FIFA conference in Milan this week.
“We have to build on the momentum of this fantastic World Cup,” he said.
The FIFA chief added that he first came up with the idea of the new league in 2017 but had seen it rejected within FIFA despite “big, big support” from global soccer officials.
“We then brought it back to the council of FIFA, where it was, how shall I say, put on hold? Or blocked for probably some sports political reasons? I don’t know exactly why,” he added.
“But we will bring it back on the table until it will be approved.”
Infantino has already pushed through an expansion of the Women’s World Cup, increasing the number of teams from 24 to 32 in 2023. Now, along with his wish for a World League, he also wants to see an annual Women’s Club World Cup to boost the game outside of national team competitions.
“We need to create a World Cup for clubs. We cannot think that we can seriously develop women’s football by only having national teams,” he said.
“We need clubs as well and to give them more reason to invest and to give them a stage where they can perform. So I will propose a Club World Cup. Every year, starting next year or the year after next. I don’t think it takes us a long time to organise it.”
The proposed tournament would see 16 or 24 teams competing over a three to four-week period, with a different host nation each year.
Infantino’s proposals reaffirm a commitment made by FIFA last year to double worldwide participation in women’s soccer to 60 million by 2026.
Manchester City to create in-house FIFA esports showEA Sports has become the official gaming partner of Manchester City as part of a new expanded global partnership with City Football Group (CFG).
The arrangement, which also includes City’s CFG-owned sister clubs New York City FC and Melbourne City FC, builds on EA Sports’ existing partnership with Manchester City to include a monthly lifestyle gaming show.
The programme, created by the club’s in-house channel CityTV, will debate the latest trends in soccer and gaming, focusing on individual players and teams involved in the FIFA franchise.
Damian Willoughby, CFG’s Senior Vice president of Partnerships, said: “This partnership is significant for City Football Group. By enhancing our existing Manchester City partnership and becoming a global partner for the group, we’re excited to break into new ground within the gaming industry.
“We know that playing EA Sports FIFA entices gamers to become lifelong football supporters so having all three clubs represented in FIFA 20 provides us with a unique opportunity.
“Our presence in esports has grown significantly over the past three years with each club having a selection of esports players, an exciting content strategy in place and hosting a series of events including tournaments for fans to participate in.
“We look forward to working with EA Sports in what continues to be a very innovative and exciting area.”
Each club will develop its own strategy for fan engagement and will continue to have esports players representing the club at big tournaments globally. The deal also adds to EA Sports' portfolio of team name and branding rights.
EA’s UK Manager Samantha Ebelthite said: “We always aim to blur the lines between the virtual and real worlds of football. Through working with City Football Group on esports, content and fan engagement initiatives, we are delighted to do this by bringing fans closer to the clubs that they love.
“It’s fantastic to become the group’s Official Football Action Simulation Gaming Partner and we’re looking forward to a successful partnership.”