Malta’s multi-million dollar partnership with Manchester United is expected to come to an end next year, with indications that talks are underway on the deal’s future and whether it should be renewed.
In September 2019, former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi signed a three-year deal that saw Malta become the football club’s official destination partner. As part of the deal, the Malta Tourism Authority would advertise the ‘Visit Malta’ brand and banners across Old Trafford.
The three-year deal provoked controversy following claims that it would cost Malta’s taxpayers close to €20 million. It was further scrutinized following Mizzi’s resignation as Tourism Minister amidst corruption claims and Malta’s wider political scandal towards the end of 2019.
UK tabloid newspaper The Sun caught wind of Malta’s internal strifes and the possible implications it may have on the Manchester United deal, claiming it was “under the spotlight safer the delegate on the deal resigned amid a political scandal.”
The contentious deal went from worse to worse following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the English Premier League into an abrupt hiatus, effectively causing the end of the tourism campaign.
Responding to a parliamentary question posed by shadow minister Robert Arrigo, former Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said that talks were being held with the club to ensure that advertising losses caused by the pandemic would be rearranged upon the restart of the season.
Farrugia Portelli did not divulge how much had been refunded to the MTA due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.
2021 faired no better for the contentious deal after Manchester United supporters boycotted the club and its partners in an attempt to strike at the Glazers family and their handling of the club in the wake of the breakaway European Super League.
Supporters targeted the club’s partners after claiming that the money they invested would not go “towards investment in the squad to compete with the best clubs.”
Malta Tourism Authority was one of the over 50 companies targeted by the boycott.
On the tail end of a three-year deal, it begs the question as to whether the partnership was worth it and, consequently, whether it’s worth renewing?
Current Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has already said that the MTA will seek to ‘maximise’ this partnership as part of its strategy to boost tourism to the island this summer with rumours that Manchester United would come to Malta to face a local Premier League club and host a training campaign.
Lovin Malta reached out to the Tourism Ministry to inquire whether they consider the campaign to be a success, whether there are any plans for renewal and whether the training camp was still going to happen.
“Talks are still ongoing, and further developments will be announced in the coming weeks,” a spokesperson from the ministry said in response.
Nonetheless, the possibility of a Manchester United training camp this summer looks slim when considering that Malta still hasn’t made it to the UK’s green list for travel.
Moreover, the lack of transparency regarding the return of investment of the Manchester United – Visit Malta partnership raises questions about whether it was ever worth it in the first place.
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