FRESH controversy surrounds the Spinnaker Tower sponsorship deal after it emerged official consent has not yet been given to rebrand the landmark.
A deal was signed with the Millennium Commission in 2002 stipulating it needed to approve any future plans for commercial advertising on the tower as it helped finance its construction.
The whole thing around the tower is a complete farce. It’s ridiculing the city and making Portsmouth look silly on the TV and elsewhere.Lib Dem councillor Lee Hunt
Portsmouth City Council used £15m of a £40m grant awarded by the commission to transform the harbour for the major project.
While the commission was wound down in 2006, the Big Lottery Fund took up its responsibilities and still has authority over the tower.
The News can now reveal the council has yet to get the green light to allow Emirates to secure the naming rights – despite already publicly announcing the deal.
It is understood the council was wrong to not get approval before going public, and has yet to hold negotiations to resolve the situation.
And fears have been raised the council could have to give the lottery fund a share of the £3.5m the airline giant has pledged to give the city to have advertisement on the tower.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, said: ‘It looks a bit of a mess. It’s not an unusual thing that if the lottery gives a huge lump of money to something and additional money comes in – which isn’t part of the original contract – it could ask for some money.
‘If the lottery fund objects to the deal and the rebranding of the tower, then we are really short of time to get things sorted.
‘A lot of this doesn’t seem to have been thought through, and part of the issue has been the secrecy around it all.’
Michael Lawther, the city council’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘As the Millennium Commission provided some of the original funding for the tower, we need consent for any sponsorship.
‘We’re in conversation about this and anticipate a positive outcome.’
Tory council leader Donna Jones said she’s not concerned.
She said: ‘We are working with the lottery fund and a number of other partners to make sure this Emirates Spinnaker Tower deal is delivered as quickly as possible. There is no issue with it at all.
‘We had to have the deal on the table so we knew whether they (the fund) liked it or not.’
A Big Lottery Fund spokeswoman said: ‘We are aware of Portsmouth City Council’s plans for a sponsorship deal, and are currently liaising with them on this matter.’
The blunder comes after the council’s original plan to paint the tower red was met with outcry.
It was then forced to go back to the drawing board and produce a blue, white and gold design more in keeping with the city in conjunction with Emirates.
The council has already lost more than £1m paying for clean-up costs associated with Ben Ainslie Racing.
Lib Dem culture spokesman, Cllr Lee Hunt has raised concerns about the deal given the human rights record in the United Arab Emirates, where Emirates is based.
He said: ‘The whole thing around the tower is a complete farce.
‘It’s ridiculing the city and making Portsmouth look silly on the TV and elsewhere.’
Labour group leader, Cllr John Ferrett, said: ‘If that’s the case that the lottery fund hasn’t been consulted and we don’t know what the liability will be, I would be very concerned.