Despite the Swans falling to a 2-0 defeat against Manchester United, the main topic of discussion amongst the travelling Jacks at Old Trafford was the rumour that a multi-million pound naming rights deal for the Liberty Stadium was very close to being agreed.
The original stadium sponsorship deal back in October 2005 with local property developers Liberty Properties, was reported to be worth around £500,000 over a 5 year period. The Swans have come a very long way during the 12 or so years since that deal was agreed – when the Swans were plying their trade in League One.
Fast forward to November 2017, with the Swans in their 7th consecutive Premier League season, the club’s American owners secured a long-term lease with Swansea council, giving the club the potential to explore much more lucrative commercial opportunities – such as the naming rights for the £27m venue.
It is understood that the Swans chief operating officer Chris Pearlman and head of global partnerships Mark Davies, were hard at work seeking a new naming rights partner well before the ink on the deal with the council had dried.
Although not officially confirmed, it is thought that preliminary talks have already been held with Samsung, GoDaddy, EA Sports, Bank of America and Audi – with the German car manufacturer believed to be the preferred choice by the powers that be at the club.
Many fans will already be aware that the club has various sponsorship deals in place with Sinclair Audi Swansea, although it appears that the proposed stadium naming rights deal with Audi UK is via an existing business relationship with Swansea City co-owner Jason Levien.
Those of you familiar with the Swans US owners are no doubt aware that Levien, who is the CEO and owner of the MLS team DC United, already has strong commercial links with Audi due to the $195 million ‘Audi Field’ soccer stadium currently being built for DC United – which is due for completion in July this year.
Sources close to the club have indicated that whilst the Audi deal might not be the most lucrative financially when compared to some of the other interested parties, it doesn’t involve as many contract clauses relating to on and off-field matters, as stipulated by some of the other parties such as Samsung and EA Sports.
Our sources at the club have also confirmed that Audi UK director Andrew Doyle was in attendance for the Swans v Arsenal game in January, as guest of Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien.
In terms of the financials, the deal with Audi is believed to be worth £10m over a 5 year period with a first refusal option to extend the naming rights deal at the end of the 2022/23 season.
The only sticking point appears to be the actual name given to the stadium, with Kaplan and Levien keen on calling it the ‘Audi Arena’ and Audi UK themselves preferring the ‘VW Stadium’.
The fact of the matter is that the deal should not really be a big surprise to anyone, especially those who know Levien’s background.
He is a self-confessed piston head, as documented in an interview he did with Mary O’Grady from the Wall Street Journal only last year:
Audi is sweet, a real leader in the automobile industry. I love to cruise around in my R8 Spyder and heck who wouldn’t be hyped to drive one of those around down-town New York. As a company, they fully embrace the culture of soccer, not only in the US but in Europe too. Everyone knows you get a bigger bang for your buck with Audi.”
Although neither he or Steve Kaplan are regular visitors to Swansea – rumour has it they come over every 3 to 4 months – Levien in particular enjoys a drive around the tranquil roads of the Gower in, yes you’ve guessed it, an Audi.
Regardless of what cars the owners of Swansea City like or even own, one thing is for certain and that is that no official announcement can be expected until the Swans league status for the 2018/19 season is confirmed.