Manchester City Football Club has netted the 30,000 mark for membership of its Sky Blue UAE supporters’ program.

Sky Blue, a partnership between Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City, launched in late 2011. Since the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) bought the Sky Blues in 2008, the club has won two Premier League titles and attracted many fans from the UAE.

The club has also conducted Q&A sessions for Sky Blue members in the UAE with star players, such as French midfielder Samir Nasri, taking time out to chat and snap photos with fans.

“It was pretty overwhelming to have so many fans coming to see us when we have been in Abu Dhabi and personally for me it was a very special trip,” said Nasri. “On one evening I went to a sports shop to meet supporters and they were so passionate and loyal – that is just something I was not expecting so many miles away from Manchester.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini has also spoken of the “incredible passion” shown by fans in the UAE.

UAE-based supporters have taken advantage of the membership benefits of being signed up to Sky Blue, such as Etihad Airways flight deals to Manchester – with more than 5,000 making that round trip.

Members of Sky Blue, which is free to join, also benefit from a complimentary Etihad Stadium tour in Manchester, and discounts at Abu Dhabi’s official Manchester City shop at Marina Mall.

“Sky Blue membership in the UAE aims to connect fans in the UAE directly with the club – and we are delighted with the results,” said Olivier Turkel, Head of Commercial MENA, Manchester City FC.

“They are all very much part of the City family now and the FanZone events we have organised in Abu Dhabi have shown us just how much the club means to them. In addition we have had many fans coming to Manchester from Abu Dhabi – as well as all corners of the world – which is very special and those bonds just keep getting stronger.”

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “It’s been great to see so many fans taking up the chance to fly with Etihad Airways to watch the team play in Manchester.”