Tourism deal with Manchester United a ‘trade secret’

Konrad Mizzi refuses to give details about Old Trafford match tickets

Fri, Oct 18th 2019, 20:54 Last updated on 10/4/20

The government has turned down an official Freedom of Information request to supply a copy of a multi-million euro marketing agreement reached with Manchester United last month.

Among the reasons given to deny the request, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) said the deal was “a trade secret”. This is despite the fact that public funds are being used.

Under the deal, Malta became the English club’s official destination partner, meaning Visit Malta’s advertising will appear at Old Trafford and online.

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said he hoped to use the exposure Manchester United’s brand has across Asia and the UK to attract new visitors to the island.

It has not been disclosed how the success of the deal will be measured.

Last month, The Sunday Times of Malta reported sources at the MTA claiming that the deal, covering three years of sponsorship, will cost taxpayers close to €20 million.

Dr Mizzi denied the report and said the deal was not worth as much. However, when asked to reveal how much the government will be paying out, he did not give any details, arguing that the information is commercially sensitive.

Times of Malta then filed a request for a copy of the contract under the FOI act.

MTA UK office promotional event with Manchester Travel & Tourism Companies. Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi were also present for the occasion in Manchester.

A similar sponsorship deal was signed in 2008 between the MTA and Sheffield United.

On that occasion, the previous government made public all the details of the €450,000 partnership.

Turning down the request for information, the MTA said that there is good reason to withhold it, “in view of the confidentiality obligations of the agreement itself, which would bring an action by Manchester United for breach of confidence”.

The MTA also said that if it were to make the agreement public, the MTA “would disclose trade secrets and other information having a commercial value that would be, or could be expected to be, destroyed or diminished if the information is disclosed”.

This, according to the MTA, could have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of negotiations by the authority.

Times of Malta has now asked for a reconsideration.

Dr Mizzi is also refusing to give any details on how many match tickets for games played by Manchester United at Old Trafford are being made available to the Malta Tourism Authority through the agreement.

He is also refusing to say how any complimentary match tickets are being distributed and who is benefitting from them.