Manchester City, Russian Sponsor Marathonbet Under Fire

  • Marathonbet has been approved by the Kremlin since 1997
  • The Manchester City/Marathonbet partnership began in 2018 and was revamped in 2019
  • One anonymous source at the club said that the sponsorship is “coming to an end”
  • Marathonbet has shut down operations in the UK
Manchester City players
Manchester City is receiving criticism for continuing its relationship with Russian sponsor Marathonbet. [Image:]

A controversial partnership

English soccer giants Manchester City are under heat for their relationship with Russian-backed betting partner Marathonbet.

controversy for the English champions, who have Marathonbet emblazoned throughout their facilities

The company has sponsored Man City for four years but recently suspended operations in the United Kingdom because of “recent and ongoing events” in Europe. This has created controversy for the English champions, who have Marathonbet emblazoned throughout their facilities.

Marathonbet has been backed by the Kremlin since it was established in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in 1997. It is one of 20 sports betting companies approved by the Russian Federation, according to tax documents seen by the Observer.

Eliminating Russian links in the UK

Man City announced their deal with Marathonbet in 2018, making them the club’s first-ever gambling sponsor. The deal stated that City would display the company’s name on kiosks and interview backdrops.

Manager Pep Guardiola and since-retired striker Sergio Aguero helped lead a revamped deal in 2019 that advertised Marathonbet on training attire. The deal has since expired, but the Russian company still remained prominent in the team’s promotions. As of last weekend, Marathonbet’s logo was still on the club’s website.

Now, the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport urged teams to reconsider certain sponsorship deals after the invasion of Ukraine. Just recently, the UK government sanctioned Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for his ties to Vladimir Putin, leading him to begin the process of selling the club— one that is reaching its final stages.

appropriate actions should be taken to limit sponsorship”

“Appropriate actions should be taken to limit sponsorship and other financial support from entities with links to the Russian or Belarusian states,” the department said in a statement last month.

Marathonbet’s chief executive Natalia Zavodnik is a Russian national who trained at Moscow Aviation Institute and works out of England.

Marathonbet and relations in England

Manchester City is one of the most popular teams in the world and has one of the highest profit potentials. They occupy the top spot in the English Premier League and are alive in the FA Cup and Champions League.

Last Sunday’s “title-deciding” match between City and Liverpool drew an average of 3.19 million in-home viewers; that’s an awful lot of eyeballs drawn to the frontrunners’ sponsors.

City’s Marathonbet sponsorship is “coming to an end”

One anonymous source at the club said that City’s Marathonbet sponsorship is “coming to an end” but could not provide further clarification. 

Betting firms such as Bet365, which sponsors multiple Premier League teams, have shut down operations in Russia in response to the invasion by Putin’s troops, creating a precedent for other gambling agencies.

Marathonbet is still accepting new visitors in Italy, Denmark, and Spain. The firm also has a UK company called Panserve, which provides support services for betting agencies, and a Channel Islands company called Marathon Alderney Ltd. regulated by the commission. 

That company has remained silent in the wake of the developing controversy.

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