Freud Communications is understood to be advising both parties involved in the high-profile sale of Manchester City football club to billionaires from the UAE.
The agency is helping new owners Abu Dhabi United Group (Adug) as well as outgoing chairman Thaksin Shinawatra with the complex media management side of the deal.
Insiders confirmed Freud’s involvement in the deal, but the agency declined to comment. It is ¬understood that Freud is not involved with the football club itself.
The deal is yet to be completely finalised, but fans are already seduced by the group’s wealth and last week’s audacious £32.4m capture of Real Madrid forward Robinho.
However, while the shock takeover has generated huge excitement among both fans and the media, industry insiders said the PR challenges had only just begun for the new owners.
‘They have got to be open, communicative and keep the City fans engaged and abreast of developments,’ said a senior PR consultant who was involved in a previous foreign football takeover.
‘But they also have to leave the football to the football people and back the manager.’
Others have warned against over-interference and undermining the club’s manager – tactics that have previously seen the public image of wealthy owners plummet.
Winning games and trophies solves many PR problems, but a sound CSR strategy is also important, said a senior agency source.
Manchester City has prided itself on its development of young players and its CSR presence in the region, so any PR strategy will have to ensure these community links are not broken.
The source said: ‘Takeovers have gone wrong when new owners have not respected the history and grass roots of a club. You have to honour its role as the heartbeat of a city.’
Agency bosses said it was inevitable that Adug would need external PR help on an ongoing basis.
It is not known whether Freud will continue to advise Adug once the deal has been completed, but sources suggested that this was unlikely because the agency currently advises Manchester City rivals Liverpool FC.
How I see it
account director, sports marketing, Ptarmigan Consulting
Under intense scrutiny from fans and media alike, it is vital that new owners allay any scepticism from the outset, while setting out a clear, realistic vision for the future success of the club – both on the pitch and off.
It is crucial that new owners are thoroughly briefed about the history and traditions of the club, understand the culture of football in the UK and talk in a language that fans relate to from the outset.
Poor communication leads to speculation. Liverpool’s US owners were ridiculed for referring to the club as a ‘franchise’. Most importantly, new owners need to convey they care about the club and its fans and are not just out to make a quick buck.
£210m Total amount Adug paid for Manchester City
£555bn Estimated fortune of Sheikh Mansour's family
8th Manchester City's highest Premiership finish
1968 The last time City won the English League title
£135m Amount Adug threatened to bid for Man Utd's Ronaldo