A war of words has erupted between the operator of Stadion Energa Gdańsk, the City of Gdańsk and Energa over the latter’s decision to end its naming rights sponsorship of the Polish football stadium.

Stadion Energa Gdańsk is the home of Ekstraklasa football club Lechia Gdańsk, with the 41,620-seat stadium having operated under its current moniker since energy supplier Energa took on the naming rights in November 2015.

The stadium opened in August 2011 ahead of Poland’s co-hosting of UEFA Euro 2012, but Arena Gdańsk Operator (AGO) and the City, which owns the venue, have taken issue with the manner in which Energa has elected to end its deal.

AGO president, Łukasz Wysocki, said the timing of Energa’s decision leaves the stadium in an “extremely difficult situation” as it operates in a reduced capacity during COVID-19. While Wysocki acknowledged the termination of the partnership, he said the operator couldn’t “hide our surprise” at the form in which the process has taken place. Wysocki said: “We learned about the sponsor’s decision from the media, and only later did we receive an official letter from Energa SA.

“We feel obliged to refer to false information that has appeared in the media. It is not true that during the five years of the sponsorship agreement, only two commercial events that can be considered nationwide took place in the facility. 

During the cooperation with Energa SA, several hundred events took place at the Stadion, including international gatherings such as concerts, league matches and Polish national football team games. Last year, the Stadion was also visited by many more people than in previous years (almost 700,000), both during large events and on a daily basis, e.g. as part of visiting the facility or visiting the Lechia Gdańsk Museum. 

“In 2020, the Stadion was to host, among others: one of the largest football events in the world, i.e. the (UEFA) Europa League final, and a sold-out concert by Dawida Podsiadło. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these events were postponed to other dates.”

He added: “The reference to the loss of Arena Gdańsk Operator is also surprising, due to the fact that our contract with Energa SA is an indicator and marketing contract. In addition, the Energa Group itself showed losses in the amount of over PLN1bn (£200.9m/€222.9m/$264.6m) for the previous year.”

For its part, Energa has fired back at what it claims is “blackmail” of the company by Gdańsk Mayor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz following its decision to end the naming rights deal. Energa said Dulkiewicz has threatened to “hinder the business” of the company in the region. It stated: “Moving the axis of the dispute over sponsorship into business relations can be considered a manifestation of actions to the detriment of Gdańsk and an imbalance in the energy security of its inhabitants.”

Energa has also taken issue with a number of claims relating to the sponsorship contract. It said: “It is not true that Energa informed the stadium operator about not extending the cooperation via the media. The letter was submitted to the AGO office in the morning, before the information was published on the company’s website.

“It is not true that the stadium operator and the company have been negotiating the terms of the new contract for many months. Both sides missed this stage as the stadium operator’s offer was rejected after a month-long analysis of the offer received just 22 working days before the old sponsorship agreement expired.”

Energa added: “It is not true that a total of several hundred mass or national events took place on the premises of the facility during the term of the contract. The stadium operator itself lists in the offer document a summary of mass events: 17 in 2019, 13 in 2018, nine in 2017, 12 in 2016.

“Only two of them are music concerts featuring world-class stars. In October this year, two matches of the Polish national football team took place. These were the first Polish performances in Gdańsk since 2018 and were immediately associated with an image mishap regarding the playing conditions at the stadium. This can be considered anti-advertising.”

Image: Stadion Energa Gdańsk