The English Football Association is on the verge of signing a £30m sponsorship deal that would mean its main knockout competition is renamed the Emirates FA Cup.
Following a year without a sponsor, after Budweiser declined to renew its deal and talks with a replacement collapsed at the last minute, the deal would boost the FA’s revenues and leave its commercial team free to negotiate secondary deals.
No contract has yet been signed but discussions are believed to be at an advanced stage.
The deal is expected to be worth around £10m a year, compared with £9m a year for the Budweiser deal, and would justify the strategy of the FA commercial director, Stuart Turner, in holding out for a better deal. The FA’s new chief executive, the former United Biscuits chief Martin Glenn, arrives at Wembley next month.
But while the deal with Budweiser was styled as “in association with”, the new agreement will see the 144-year-old knockout competition rebranded as the Emirates FA Cup.
The FA is likely to point to the fact the competition was known as the Axa-sponsored FA Cup as a precedent.
Members of the FA’s commercial team are believed to have travelled to Dubai to finalise the deal.
The move may not prove popular with those who feel the competition has been devalued by shifting kick-off times and brand tie-ins, but commercial income is vital to the chairman Greg Dyke’s plan to refocus the FA’s purpose and invest more in grassroots football.
Budweiser was enthusiastic at the outset of its three-year deal but decided against renewing as a title sponsor, preferring instead to sign a lesser contract to become the official beer partner of the FA Cup until 2018.
Similar deals are in place with William Hill and Nike and the FA is targeting a total of six secondary partners.
An FA spokesman said on Tuesday night: “We remain in discussions with a number of parties regarding FA Cup partner opportunities.” The full FA board meets on Thursday, with the deal expected to be on the agenda.
The Emirates deal, which will run for three seasons from 2015-16, will ensure that the FA’s major broadcasting and sponsorship deals are largely tied up until 2018.
Emirates Airlines, which already sponsors Arsenal’s stadium and shirts as well as various other clubs around Europe including Paris Saint-Germain, recently decided against renewing its Fifa sponsorship. It is expected to be replaced by Qatar Airways.
The Premier League is also looking for a new sponsor. Barclays is not expected to renew its £40m deal beyond the end of next season and talks with the Diageo-owned Guinness as a replacement were stymied by individual club sponsorship deals with rival beer brands.