Chelsea ‘pitched multi-year £60m shirt sponsorship deal to Saudi airline Riyadh Air’ – which is owned by Newcastle majority owner PIF – and will only fly its first plane in 2025

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Chelsea reportedly held talks with Saudi Arabia state airline Riyadh Air over becoming its main shirt sponsor, as the club’s search for a replacement for Three continues.

The Blues’ home and away kits have been blank so far this season, with their  attempts to replace the mobile network facing legal challenges from the Premier League.

According to The Athletic, however, that could be set to change as Chelsea executives – including CEO Chris Jurasek – hosted Riyadh Air representatives at Stamford Bridge on Saturday for the Blues’ 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

The report indicates Chelsea presented a pitch to the airline to become their front-of-shirt sponsor for the men’s and women’s team. 

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The Athletic said the pitch was for a multi-year deal and that the club is looking at an overall package of £60million per year to cover both the men’s and women’s teams.

The Blues' home and away kit have been blank so far this season, after the club failed to sign a new sponsor to replace Three

The Blues’ home and away kit have been blank so far this season, after the club failed to sign a new sponsor to replace Three

Saudi Arabia state airline Riyadh Air was formed in March and won't fly its first passengers until 2025 at the earliest

Saudi Arabia state airline Riyadh Air was formed in March and won’t fly its first passengers until 2025 at the earliest 

Riyadh Air already sponsors Atletico Madrid and is owned by the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the majority owner of Newcastle United.

As Mail Sport revealed last year, PIF are also major investors in Chelsea’s majority shareholder, Clearlake Capital. PIF have billions of pounds of assets managed by Clearlake.

Clearlake bought 60 per cent of Chelsea in a £4.25billion takeover last year with Todd Boehly leading the consortium.

The airline became Saudi Arabia’s second state-owned carrier along with Saudia – formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines – when it was launched in March alongside a provisional order for 72 Boeing 787 aircraft.

The company’s CEO Tony Douglas told the Financial Times last month Riyadh Air’s plans were ‘super aggressive’ and it planned to serve over 100 destinations by the end of the decade.

However, the airline has hitherto not flown a single plane and it plans to carry out its maiden flight only in 2025.

The Athletic added that Chelsea have also held talks with betting website Kaiyun Sports, which signed a deal with Nottingham Forest last week.

The company currently has deals with Crystal Palace, Real Madrid and Inter Milan and its logo was displayed on the billboards at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Riyadh Air already sponsors Atletico Madrid, despite having only been formed in March

Riyadh Air already sponsors Atletico Madrid, despite having only been formed in March

PIF is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia's PM

PIF is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s PM

Kaiyun Sports is reportedly aimed at customers in mainland China, but is allowed to access the UK market via a so-called ‘white label’ agreement with a company based on the Isle of Man.

Betting and gambling remain illegal in mainland China.  

In July, Chelsea became the first of any ‘Big Six’ club to launch a Premier League kit without a main sponsor after failing to attract an appropriate commercial partner for this season.

As reported by Mail Sport at the time, the club found themselves in the situation because several deals that had been viewed as suitable and lucrative fell through, including a contract with Paramount+. 

That was vetoed by the Premier League on the basis it might upset PL rights holders.

Paramount+ is an international streaming service — which does not show Premier League matches in the UK — that would not be permitted under the Deed of License, which is the contract between clubs and Premier League.

It was then widely assumed that Chelsea would instead sign a deal with gambling company Stake, but this provoked a furious reaction from fans, as reported by the Mail on Sunday in June.

PIF are also major investors in Chelsea's majority shareholder, Clearlake Capital, which bought 60 per cent of Chelsea last year with Todd Boehly leading the consortium

PIF are also major investors in Chelsea’s majority shareholder, Clearlake Capital, which bought 60 per cent of Chelsea last year with Todd Boehly leading the consortium

Premier League clubs have voted to ban all gambling firms from being front-of-shirt sponsors from 2026, but eight clubs retain such sponsors this season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s deal with Infinite Athlete, which was announced last month and thought to be worth north of £40m a season is still waiting approval from the Premier League.

Infinite Athlete was recently formed by the merger of technology company Tempus Ex Machina and Biocore.

While Chelsea signed a seven-year deal with Tempus in April, the investment fund Silver Lake, which owns 18 percent of City Football Group – the umbrella company that owns Manchester City – is an investor in Infinite Athlete.

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