Top clubs fail to find sponsors amid exodus of brands from Turkish football
Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray unveiled their jerseys for the new season last week, both of which are without sponsors. AA PhotoTwelve top flight Turkish clubs, including Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, could play the next Spor Toto Süper Lig season without a jersey sponsor, as the mass exodus of brands from Turkish football continues.
Defending champions Fenerbahçe and last year’s runner-up, Galatasaray, unveiled their new shirts last week, and both of the Istanbul football giants, who have 39 domestic titles between them, have failed to find a lucrative sponsorship deal so far.
The two archrivals are not alone in their troubles: Twelve of 18 Super League clubs have not yet secured a main sponsor for the upcoming season. The 12 sides include Bursaspor and Trabzonspor, other members of Turkey’s five-team elite.
Beşiktaş, which has a sponsorship deal with Vodafone, is the only former Turkish champion to have a jersey sponsorship deal. Beşiktaş’s jersey sponsorship with Vodafone also includes the naming rights of the Black Eagles’ new stadium, the Vodafone Arena, which is currently being built. Beşiktaş is receiving $29 million per year for the next five years as part of the deal.
The exodus is thought to have been prompted when Türk Telekom announced late last season that it would not be extending its sponsorship deals with Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor. The Turkish telecommunications giant said it would instead continue investing “in amateur sports.”
Koray Öztürkler, who resigned from his post as the chief corporate affairs officer of Turkcell in April, has urged Turkish sports to take lessons from the issue.
“No club would say ‘We won’t have sponsors’ without a reason. It can only say it if there is no appetite from the sponsors. Will the sports scene take lessons from this?” he wrote on his Twitter account on July 19. Turkcell, just like Türk Telekom, had been one of the top sponsors in Turkish sports and supported a dozen top-flight clubs before pulling out.
According to reports, Galatasaray still has an option to extend its deal with the Turkish telecommunications giant for one year, but it remains in the market for a new endorser. As the name sponsor of Galatasaray’s Türk Telekom Arena, the company said it will honor its stadium deal until 2020.
As for Fenerbahçe, the club has so far failed to find a lucrative deal and aims to make up for the sponsorship deal with support from its fans. Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and board member Mahmut Uslu have called on fans to buy the jerseys, coining the slogan: “If we don’t have the sponsor, then our fans will be enough.” Daily Hürriyet reported that Fenerbahçe sold some 390,000 jerseys last year, adding that the Yellow Canaries benefited from a rise in its deal with jersey manufacturer Adidas and was receiving around 11 million euros a year. However, the deal also foresees Adidas receiving a cut from the sale of jerseys.
In April, Yıldırım said the club had troubles finding sponsors “due to political pressure” that surrounded him. Fenerbahçe has experienced three turbulent years in charge, during which the club has been embroiled in a match-fixing case that saw Yıldırım and some of his fellow board members found guilty and given prison sentences. During the hearings, Fenerbahçe fans confronted the police on several occasions.
However, that tells only part of the story about why brands are abandoning Turkish football. Last week, it was reported that Digiturk, the official broadcaster which has been the most lucrative sponsor of Turkish football since a landmark broadcasting deal in 2009, has failed to pay the deeds to the clubs for the coming season. It was reported that the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) had itself made 65 million Turkish Liras worth of payments to clubs in order to make up for the shortfall and that Digiturk would repay this amount to the TFF at a later date.