Manchester City football club faces scrutiny over its official global betting partner Marathonbet, which is approved by the Kremlin for its gambling operations in Russia.
Marathonbet, which was established in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in 1997, is one of around 20 firms approved in Russia for betting, according to Kremlin federal tax office documents seen by the Observer.
The betting firm has announced it will no longer accept bets in the UK because of “recent and ongoing events in Europe”. Marathonbet had expanded its operations across Europe over the last decade and has been a sponsor of Manchester City for nearly four years.
The UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has urged sport clubs to review sponsorship deals after the invasion of Ukraine.
The department said in a statement posted last month: “Appropriate actions should be taken to limit sponsorship and other financial support from entities with links to the Russian or Belarusian states.”
The Premier League champions announced their first ever global betting partnership with Marathonbet in June 2018.
Under the deal, the firm agreed to provide branded betting kiosks for its fans, with its logos appearing throughout the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and on match-day interview backdrops.
It announced a new partnership in December 2019 to provide branding for the club’s training kit in a deal launched by manager Pep Guardiola and the now retired striker Sergio Agüero. The training kit deal ended last year, but the firm is still a club sponsor and the Marathonbet logo was still on the club’s website this weekend.
One source at Manchester City said on Friday the sponsorship deal was “coming to an end”, but the club was unable to provide further details. Marathonbet still promotes its online betting operations with images of Manchester City players.
Marathonbet’s chief executive, Natalia Zavodnik, who is based in Britain, is from Russia and trained at the Moscow Aviation Institute, one of the country’s leading engineering institutes. One of the company’s key shareholders has previously disclosed he is a Russian citizen, according to legal documents.
Since the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces, some other betting firms, including Bet365, are reported to have shut down their operations in Russia.
The website Marathonbet is still operating in Russia, but has decided to stop registering new UK accounts or accepting bets from people in the country. It said it would continue to operate in Spain, Denmark and Italy.
The betting firm has a UK company, Panserve, which provides support services for betting operations, and a Channel Islands company, Marathon Alderney Ltd, which is regulated by the Gambling Commission.
The company did not respond to a request for comment last week.