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15 Jul 2015 15:30

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has signed an agreement to become the official airline of Saudi Arabia’s oldest and most popular football club, Al Ittihad. 

Founded in 1927, Al Ittihad is a premier league team in the Abdul Latif Jameel League and has won an impressive eight league titles, holds 47 official championship wins and three Asian championships, including back-to-back Asian Champions League wins.

The Jeddah-based club, which plays its home games at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, also holds the record for the highest average home attendance in domestic league matches amongst all Middle Eastern football clubs.

Peter Baumgartner, Chief Commercial Officer for Etihad Airways, said: “We have an extremely successful track record in sports sponsorship and our latest role as official airline of Al Ittihad complements Etihad Airways’ existing partnerships with Manchester City, Melbourne City and New York City football clubs. Saudi Arabia is one of our most important markets and we are delighted to support a team based in our home region, especially one that has achieved success through hard work, passion and dedication, the same as Etihad Airways.”

As part of the sponsorship program, Etihad Airways will receive unique promotional opportunities including prominent branding at home matches and training, access to players for marketing activities, presence at press conferences, and various exclusive events. The airline will also be the preferred airline for the club and supporter travel, when they fly abroad for Asian Champions League competition.

Ibrahim Al-Balawi, President of Al Ittihad FC, said: “We are delighted to enter into this partnership with Etihad Airways and it also gives us an opportunity to extend our reach outside of the traditional market of Saudi Arabia and into other areas of the world such as Asia, where we also have a strong following in our fan base thanks to our success in the Asian Champions League. We have an ambition to grow our fan base even further and the partnership with Etihad Airways will ensure we have the best sponsor to fulfil that ambition.”

Etihad Airways’ sports sponsorship portfolio includes the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team; Etihad Stadium in Melbourne; Melbourne City Football Club; Etihad Stadium in Manchester; Manchester City Football Club; New York City Football Club as well as the Verizon Centre in Washington DC, which includes sponsorship of the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Washington Mystics (WNBA).

The airline also sponsors the England and Wales Cricket Board; Mumbai Indians; Major League Soccer; the Sydney Opera House; Gaelic Athletic Association’s Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship and the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Etihad Airways commenced operations to Jeddah in May 2006, with an initial three frequencies per week. The services increased to daily in April 2007 and again to twelve flights per week from February 2011.The airline now flies thirteen times a week to Jeddah and the route is a strong performer on its global network. 

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