Government defies information commissioner order over Man United deal

The government has defied an order of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to make public an agreement with Manchester United Football Club by publishing just two pages that do not contain any of the crucial contractual or financial information.

The Shift requested the IDPC look into the deal, and following a two-year investigation during which the Tourism Ministry took its time to hand over the information, the commissioner ordered it be made public.

But instead of publishing it in full, the ministry published a snippet full of irrelevant information, keeping the finer details under wraps and leading to a rebuke from the IDPC over its “blanket decision” to block the contents.

Meanwhile, the government continues to defend the interests of Manchester United Football Club while failing to meet its obligation to be transparent on public spending.

According to the ministry, if the information, particularly on how public funds are being used to sponsor Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo’s favourite football team, is made public, Manchester United would “suffer prejudice”, and it “could reasonably have a material adverse impact,” on its commercial interests.

The issue of the hidden agreement between the government and Manchester United has been ongoing since 2019 when disgraced then-tourism minister Konrad Mizzi first signed a three-year sponsorship agreement that would see the club promote Malta as a tourism destination to its fans.

Despite the criticism that the agreement did not produce any tangible results and was a waste of public funds, Bartolo signed another “variation agreement” in March 2022, renewing the agreement for a further five years for another undisclosed sum, estimated to be in the region of several million euro.

Pictures posted to social media accounts belonging to Clayton Bartolo and his team.

According to partial information obtained by The Shift through a Freedom of Information request, it results that the minister flew an 11-member ‘delegation’ to Manchester, paid by taxpayers, to ‘announce’ the renewal.

The agreement was signed on 21 March 2022 but Bartolo waited until August to take the trip and make the public announcement. He took his girlfriend Amanda Muscat and several canvassers along with him and managed to find time to watch a football match at Old Trafford.

The renewal agreement was signed in March 2022, but the minister ‘announced’ it in August to be able to watch the first match of the season at Old Trafford

During the IDPC investigation, Manchester United also objected to the revelation of the sponsorship agreement, claiming “trade secrets” and “commercial sensitivity”.


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2 months ago

Ministering their foibles upon clearly unapproving taxpayers.

Philip Micallef
Philip Micallef
2 months ago

This simply amounts to stealing and nothing less. The taxpayers have entrusted their taxes to Government to use judiciously and Government is simply refusing to give a proper breakdown of how these taxes have been spent which makes me suspect that a lot of hiding is taking place. All such sponsorships should be made public and posted on the Government website as done in many other jurisdictions

Frank Galea
Frank Galea
2 months ago

Fejn hi t-trasparenza li kien weghdna Joseph Muscat qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2013? Mhux biss izda issa qed naraw lil Gvern jisfida ordnijiet cari li jinghataw mill-Istituzzjonijiet li l-Gvern stess jghidilna “halluhom jahdmu”. Dan l-ahhar rajna l-Awtorita tax-Xandir twahhal multa lil Prof Andrew Azzopardi ghax qal li mhux lest li jistieden lil Norman Lowell fuq il-programm tieghu meta l-Qorti ddeskrivit lil dan il-bniedem bhala razzist. Din l-attitudni minn naha tal-Gvern ma ssirx f’pajjiz suppost demokratiku u allura hi inaccetabbli u perikoluza.

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