Manchester United’s Champions League opponents Wolfsburg are facing an uncertain financial future because of the scandal engulfing Volkswagen, according to a sports economics expert.

German car manufacturer Volkswagen own the Bundesliga club, and could be fined up to £11.8bn after

cheating United States emissions tests.

Wolfsburg face United on Wednesday.

“When you suffer a big financial hit, you have to look for savings,” Simon Chadwick told BBC World Service Sport.

“Sponsorship is one of the things that gets hit during times of austerity. It has to have an impact on the club,” added Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University.

Wolfsburg was formed out of a multi-sports club for VW workers in 1945, and the company’s significant financial investment helped them win the Bundesliga title in 2009 and German Cup last season. They are currently fourth in the league table.

Chadwick said: “Depending on the size of the financial dent it remains to be seen whether they can sustain the level of expenditure, and therefore the team’s performance, that we’ve seen over recent seasons.”

Will the Volkswagen scandal affect other clubs?

According to Chadwick, financial trouble at Volkswagen could lead to problems at several other clubs – and in other sports.

Wolfsburg

Volkswagen also sponsor many other football clubs

“VW alone sponsors around 18 of the 36 clubs that make up Germany’s top two divisions. But we’re not just talking about Volkswagen here, we’re talking about the Volkswagen Group,” he said.

“That includes Audi, who have substantial sporting interests. For example they sponsor Barcelona. And Audi and VW are both involved in motorsport.

“You really can’t underestimate the impact this may have on sport.”

What do Wolfsburg say?

Sporting director Klaus Allofs has moved to reassure concerned fans.

“I can’t say anything concrete about the operations at Volkswagen, but in general the signals are clear. As things stand now, nothing will change,” he said.

“The financial size of the investment, in terms of the whole Volkswagen Group, is certainly not small. On the other hand, their emotional involvement is huge, which is why I am not worried.

“That’s not a calming tactic, but what I firmly believe.”

Klaus Allofs

Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs won 56 caps for West Germany from 1978-1988

‘A disaster. The team would crumble’

Despite Allofs’ comments, former Wolfsburg striker Jonathan Akpoborie is mindful of how damaging it would be if Volkswagen made significant cut-backs in their investment.

“When you are there you know that if Volkswagen has a problem then it would be an immense problem for the team,” said the 46-year-old, who played for the Wolves between 1999 and 2001.

“Volkswagen is the backbone of Wolfsburg, it would be a disaster if they separated.

“The link is always there. For the players it’s not hidden. You know that without Volkswagen the team can’t survive, it would crumble.”