Everton Football Club has confirmed a lucrative 5-year naming rights deal with Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov's USM Holdings which will see its training ground renamed USM Finch Farm. Usmanov, who previously described Arsenal as a successful "sports business project", is a business associate of Everton's major shareholder and fellow USM shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, who sold his stake in Arsenal to Usmanov last year.
Despite the deal raising some eyebrows, there has been no suggestion of any conflict of interest despite Usmanov's 30% shareholding in Arsenal and Moshiri's 49.9% stake in Everton because neither is involved in the management of the respective clubs. Everton would only be in breach of the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations if it was benefitting from private investment, whereas here there has been no suggestion that money it is to receive from the deal is anything other than revenue raised commercially.
Although it would be counterintuitive for a shareholder of a company to vote for a deal that is not in the company's best interests as that would be detrimental to his investment, there is no duty on a shareholder to avoid conflicts of interest with the company, as there is for directors. While shareholders can vote their shares however they choose, directors of a company owe various statutory duties to the company in addition to the duty to avoid conflicts of interest, including to promote the success of the company and to exercise independent judgment. Usmanov had pushed for a seat on the board at Arsenal for some time, but to date he has not been afforded that opportunity.
USM Holdings, the holding company for Usmanov’s wide-ranging business interests, has become the Premier League club’s first training-ground partner in a five-year deal. The partnership will see Everton’s Finch Farm training complex renamed USM Finch Farm and includes marketing rights plus match-day advertising at Goodison Park. It also represents a commercial link between Arsenal’s second-largest shareholder and the club where his business partner, Farhad Moshiri, is the major shareholder.