Manchester United signs deal with another big polluter, Malaysia Airlines.

Manchester United today announced a new three year sponsorship deal with Malaysian Airlines which will see the airline become the club’s official commercial airline.  Manchester United ended their commercial partnership with their previous airline partner, Russian state airline Aeroflot, in 2022, following the country’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

This comes at a time when cutting emissions from aviation and transport overall is integral to tackling climate breakdown. Sponsor deals like this increase demand for and help normalise this extremely polluting form of travel.  Manchester United has already faced a reputational backlash with its ownership ties to petro-giant INEOS after UK businessman Jim Ratcliffe bought a minority stake in the club earlier this year.

Frank Huisingh from Fossil Free Football said: “By sealing this deal with Malaysia Airlines, Manchester United is prioritising its financial profits over much needed climate action. Fans expect football clubs to take serious climate action. Given the urgency of climate breakdown, high carbon sponsorship deals such as the one announced today by Manchester United are the exact opposite of that.”

High carbon sponsorship is rife across the sports sector with football taking the hot spot as the worst offender.

Research from Badvertising in 2021 showed that the industry had 57 carbon sponsorship deals. Aviation is the most polluting form of travel. If unmitigated, aviation emissions are expected to double or triple by 2050 and in doing so consume up to one-quarter of the global carbon budget under a 1.5 degree scenario. 

The sponsorship deal has been announced in a week that has seen the first lawsuit worldwide to tackle aviation industry greenwashing. A Dutch Court ruled against Dutch aviation firm KLM after finding climate claims made by the company in its advertisements misleading, and therefore unlawful. It’s a decision that now sets a major legal precedent, with ramifications across international aviation – and beyond.

“Elite football clubs such as Manchester United continue to promote and normalise highly polluting industries as if the planet wasn’t heating. Football could be a powerful partner in the transition to a sustainable economy, but to do that, it must stop aligning with companies that are undermining the future of the game”, Huisingh added.