Until the end of the 2009-10 season, UEFA had a rule that clubs opposing each other in European competition couldn’t feature the same sponsor’s logo on their shirts.
The regulations for that season were the last to feature the following stipulation:
Clash of shirt sponsor
19.10 If two clubs meeting in the competition have the same shirt sponsor, the home team may wear their regular sponsor advertising whereas the visiting team may only wear advertising for a product of the said sponsor. No identical advertising elements may appear on the shirts of the two teams in question. The visiting club must send a sample of such new shirts to the UEFA administration for approval.
For the following season, that requirement was removed and, as luck would have it, Real Madrid and AC Milan – both sponsored by Bwin – were paired together in the group stages.
A year later, Milan – by now sponsored by Fly Emirates – would come up against Arsenal, who have been partners with the Dubai airline since 2006.
Emirates are ubiquitous among Europe’s elite, with Arsenal, Hamburg, Milan, Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain currently carrying their name. Incidentally, in Arsenal’s first season with Emirates, they encountered Hamburg in the Champions League, and for the two clubs’ group games, the away side had the word ‘Dubai‘ on their shirts instead.
German car manufacturer Opel once held a similar status as a multi-team sponsor. Having been associated with Feyenoord, Fiorentina and Standard Liege – they are back with the Dutch side again – by the mid-90s, three of what would become the Emirates five – Milan, Real and PSG – were in their portfolio, along with Czech side Sparta Prague (and the Republic of Ireland).
In 1995, Milan met Sparta in the UEFA Cup and in each game, the away side went sponsorless – though it could have been the case that advertising a product of the sponsoring firm wasn’t allowed at the time.
To mark the fact that PSG had come into their stable, Opel sponsored a triangular competition between its three marquee clubs in 1996. Naturally, the pushing of the brand was welcomed, rather than prohibited, here.
In the 97-98 Champions League, Bayern and PSG were drawn in the same group. For their meeting at the Olympiastadion, PSG wore blank shirts…
…but in the return game at the Parc des Princes, Bayern carried the message, ‘Sportler für Organspende’ (‘Athletes for organ donation’).
In the 2000-01 competition, it would be the turn of Milan and PSG to meet. On this occasion, both clubs took the opportunity to promote the Opel Corsa. Incidentally, Milan would from time to time use other Opel model names.
Two years later, Bayern met Milan, but by this stage the German giants had ended their 13-year deal with Opel, joining forces with Deutsche Telekom instead, and so no change was needed.