Out to East Manchester for a press launch which seems to have been already covered by every national newspaper, but the press conference is packed. Earlier this year, the City Council, supported by Sport England, who have a major stake in the stadium and surrounding sports facilities, agreed a new rental agreement with Manchester City FC. The agreement replaced one in which rental fluctuated with attendances, to one where rent was higher, guaranteed and upwardly mobile. In return MCFC were able to market the naming rights, and today was the official announcement that for the next ten years it will be the Etihad Stadium in the Etihad Campus.
The obvious question is what benefit does the city itself get from all of this. We already have a good relationship with Etihad who will be opening their European Customer Contact Centre, bringing the jobs that go with it, in Manchester, early next year. This week they announced that their service to Abu Dhabi will become twice daily, improving air access from Manchester to China, India and the Middle East. They will become a partner with us and MCFC in supporting regeneration and community development in East Manchester. Next week, as well as finalising the revised strategic framework for East Manchester which includes working together to bring major employment generating activity to the area around the stadium, we will also commence consultation on a community programme. The programme will encompass sport, education and training, and jobs and much of it will only be fundable because of the revised rental agreement. With the central government regeneration funding taps turned off half way through what is a twenty year programme, this is a real lifeline for keeping the progress we have already made going in this part of the city.