Real Madrid are set to rename their Bernabeu stadium as part of a sponsorship deal with United Arab Emirates-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).
The two parties agreed their partnership, believed to be worth up to 500 million euros to the Spanish club over a period of 20 years, in October.
It includes naming rights for the Bernabeu – Real’s home since 1947.
The stadium also hosted the 1982 World Cup Final.
The name the parties have settled on is thought to be The Abu Dhabi Santiago Bernabeu, although another possibility is The Cepsa (a subsidiary Spanish company) Santiago Bernabeu.
The decision will be approved by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who has insisted that the stadium’s heritage is honoured by retaining the words ‘Santiago Bernabeu’ – the club’s former player, manager and president who oversaw the initial construction – in the full title.
Perez secured the sponsorship in order to raise funds for the long-planned renovation of the stadium, which is expected to be completed in 2017 and will increase the capacity to around 90,000 from its current 81,000, incorporating a retractable roof along with a number of contemporary design features.
“I am killing myself to create the best stadium in the world,” Perez said at the club’s annual General Assembly in September.
“If you want to do it without debt, the only possibility is that we take a sponsor’s name which could give us the 400 or 500 million euros the new stadium is worth.
“We have spoken to 10 companies to see if someone is capable of attaching their name to the Bernabeu. I have said I will do [the renovations to] the stadium and I am going to do it, but I have to overcome all the difficulties.”
“It’s not like Britain, this is rare in Spain” – Andy West, Spanish football expert
Unlike British clubs, including a sponsor in a stadium name is rare in Spain – currently the only top flight club to have done so is Espanyol – so this is a contentious issue for Real Madrid fans.
Although many are opposed to the idea, there is also a general acceptance that it is a necessary move to pay for the reconstruction of the stadium, and all-powerful club president Florentino Perez generally manages to get his way.
Real Madrid already have a strong presence in the UAE, with Dubai government-owned airline Emirates serving as shirt sponsor since 2013.
The club also have tentative plans to open a Disneyland-style theme park in the UAE, and even removed the Christian cross from its official logo in Arabic marketing campaigns to avoid offending local sensibilities.