A new set of leaks from Manchester City has revealed how the club’s owners ignored warnings before taking sponsorship money from a controversial Emirati construction firm.
New documents provided by Football Leaks whistle-blowers, and seen by German Magazine Der Spiegel, allege that club officials argued against plans to partner with Gulf firm Arabtec, but their concerns were overridden by the club’s owners.
As far back as 2009, Arabtec has been at the centre of allegations of human rights abuses and mistreatment of its migrant workers.
Arabtec labourers are drawn mainly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and their passports used to be confiscated on arrival, until this practice was outlawed in the United Arab Emirates in 2015.
In 2009, a BBC Panorama documentary showed Arabtec’s migrant labourers living in cramped and unhygienic conditions, with overflowing, open sewage systems and over 40 men sleeping together in single, windowless dorms.
In early 2014, Arabtec workers went on strike for higher pay, but many of those who took part were arrested and deported.
That same year, Man City began discussing the possibility of partnering with Arabtec, but a club risk report concluded that the partnership would have “significant potential to damage the perception and standing of the Club and its owners”.
Club officials also argued against the partnership. Vicky Kloss, chief communications officer at City, allegedly sent an email to club executives urging them to pull out of the Arabtec deal.
“I think it’s the biggest single risk to (our) reputation we have faced since 2008,” she wrote. “The gap between what we (MCFC/City) do and what they (Arabtec) do is unbridgeable.”
The findings of the risk report, and the concerns of Kloss and others, were ignored by the club’s owners.
In May 2014, Man City signed a deal with Arabtec, but downgraded it to a regional partnership covering the Middle East, Turkey and Russia.
Arabtec is understood to have paid £7m per year during the 2015-16 season.