The Football Association (FA) is set to carry out inquiries into West Ham’s sponsorship agreement between the women’s team and a leading sports management agency.
Unique Sports Management (USM) agreed to become a shirt sponsor for the women’s team at the start of this season, with the deal reported to be worth close to £250,000, however this has not yet been confirmed by neither West Ham nor USM.
The FA are said to have been aware of the sponsorship deal at the time it was brokered, however are now said to be requiring further clarification on the circumstances in which USM were asked to sponsor the team.
Jack Sullivan, 19, is the managing director of the women’s team, and is also the son of West Ham’s co-owner, David Sullivan. The father-son duo are said to be on close personal terms with USM boss Will Salthouse, who is often spotted in the Director’s Box at The London Stadium.
The USM-West Ham partnership has alarmed representatives of players at the club amid fears that it represents what could be construed as a conflict of interest, and the growing influence exerted by Salthouse at the football club.
A West Ham spokesman, when asked about the deal, commented: “The deal with USM — which represents less than 15 per cent of the total annual commercial income the women’s team has managed to secure from a range of well-known brands — includes significant high-value hospitality packages at both men’s and women’s matches. This is a commercial deal, no different in nature to any other we have with our partners at the club.
“The West Ham United women’s team attracted strong interest at the start of the season from a wide range of high-profile brands due to the level of investment into the team at all levels, from infrastructure to signing some of the world’s best players. This investment, together with its new management team, has put the club on an upward trajectory culminating in its momentous rise into the Women’s Super League this season.
“This has drawn high-profile media interest including a BBC documentary, all of which has contributed to the growth in the appeal of the women’s team to commercial brands.”