Abu Dhabi residents in Manchester City shamelessly try to make their country's "battered image" "sportier" by pouring money into the Premier League club, Amnesty International said.
Last week, Der Spiegel released a series of claims based on information from the Football Leaks Whistleblowing platform, which painted a very different image of the club than the one shown on the court, claims the club.
According to the German magazine, City has been trying to circumvent the rules of financial fair play in Europe for much of the last decade with superfluous sponsorship deals, a sophisticated image rights system and hidden contracts.
One of these sponsorship agreements was signed with Arabtec, the largest construction company in the United Arab Emirates, but was repeatedly criticized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for their poor treatment of migrant workers.
The Mirror claims that the City hierarchy ignored the warnings of its own public relations experts regarding reputational damage and stepped up its review of the signing of a three-year regional sponsorship agreement with Arabtec in 2014, worth £ 7m per year.
Attempts to reach Arabtec for comment have failed, even though the company is no longer listed as a regional partner of the city.
"The tremendous investment by the United Arab Emirates in Manchester City is one of football's bold attempts to make the deeply clouded image of a country" sportswear "through the glamor of the game," said Devin Kenney, Amnesty International's golf researcher. "As a growing number of Manchester City fans will know, the club's success is built on a close relationship with a country that relies on exploited labor and imprisons peaceful critics and human rights defenders."
The Spiegel has also talked about City's unusual way of working, including a project called Longbow, in which the club allegedly sold the players' image rights to an organization sponsored by City's Sheikh Mansour owner. There is also the question of former coach Roberto Mancini, who led City to their first Premier League title in 2012 and played a crucial role in their rise to become European football elite. When signing the club, he allegedly agreed not just an annual salary but also another more lucrative core contract as a consultant to Al Jazira, a club also controlled by the City owner.
Sheikh Mansour is a member of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The city has declined to comment on the claims made by the Mirror, except for the general statement that the reports are based on "hacked and stolen" material and are part of a "clear and organized" attempt to smear the club.