In December, Nick Cohen wrote a piece for The Guardian saying football fans should be asking the hard questions about the money behind leading clubs. To do that, let’s look at Arsenal’s main sponsor, Emirates.

In 2004, Emirates signed a sponsorship deal with Arsenal, ahead of construction of the new stadium.

Since then, they’ve been the main shirt sponsor, as well retaining naming rights for the club ground.


Maurice Flanagan founded Emirates in 1985, and their headquarters are based in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is commonly at the centre of human rights controversies.

The Guardian report that many workers in Abu Dhabi are “subjected to conditions amounting to forced labour”. Employers allegedly confiscate workers’ passports, and give them such poor wages they can’t pay off recruitment fees. That’s just one of many articles on the subject.

HRW (Human Rights Watch) write about similar exploitation of migrant construction workers in the country. They claim the government largely don’t enforce UAE Federal Labour Law protections. They also spoke to 60 workers who said their employers routinely withhold wages as “security” to stop workers “running away”.

Emirates Airline

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean Emirates Airline are the same. It does raise questions over how they treat their workers, especially in the founding country, however.

An article by the Wall Street Journal in 2015 reported cabin crew complaints of longer hours and shortened layovers. Emirates reportedly asked staff to work more shifts, and they deferred employees’ annual leave allocation. The airline denied these claims.

Meanwhile, a blogger writing on the website DoNotFlyEmirates made a rather disturbing allegation that Emirates employees aren’t subject to Federal Labour Laws in the UAE. They support this claim with screenshots of emails from multiple employees at the company.

If that’s the case, workers in the country wouldn’t have any legal support if Emirates violate their rights. Considering HRW’s claim that the country commonly ails to enforce Labour Laws anyway, it’s problematic either way.

It’s hard to say with any certainty how much the above claims of exploitation of workers and rights violations really come into play with the airline.

Hopefully they don’t, and it’s not a major issue in the case of Arsenal’s main sponsor.

It’s worth keeping your eyes open though (and please get in touch), because if they do, I want my club to act on it and we certainly want to investigate it further.