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Horncastle: The end of the "Rafa-lution"?

Serie A about an hour ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 6, 2006

Man United unveil AIG as new sponsors

Manchester United have agreed a British record £56.5million shirt sponsorship deal with US finance giant American International Group (AIG).

United chief executive David Gill confirmed the four-year deal, which dwarfs the £10million-a-season contract Premiership champions Chelsea have with Samsung, at Old Trafford this lunchtime.

Although the figure is less than Gibraltar-based gaming company Mansion were prepared to pay, there were widespread concerns within club circles about being linked so heavily with a gambling organisation.

It means AIG will be only the third company to have their name on the famous red shirt, following on from Sharp and Vodafone.

While sum is slightly less than the world record £15million-a-year Juventus receive from Libyan oil company Tamoil, it still represents a major coup for Gill and his negotiation team, who have confounded the predictions of many pundits who felt they would struggle to match the £9million-a-year deal Vodafone decided to terminate two years early.

'Let's be clear,' said Gill.

'We passed up the opportunity to do the world's biggest shirt deal to do the right shirt deal, one that is right for Manchester United and one that underlines our position as the world's leading club.

'AIG's global operations complement our great fanbase and we are excited about the global prospects this relationship brings.

'This is a blue chip deal for a blue chip club.'

Today's announcement had been widely anticipated following Mansion's public accusations of 'double-dealing' on Monday when they confirmed United's commercial director Andy Anson had terminated discussions with the company on Sunday evening.

Anson has been widely criticised by some vocal sections of the United support for his failure to secure a replacement more swiftly but he was extensively involved in talks over a new deal, along with Gill and Bryan Glazer.

Red Devils officials have been angered at frequent suggestions that the much-cherished 'United' brand had been badly tarnished by the Malcolm Glazer takeover and the figures involved in the AIG deal provide proof the American's controversial £790million buy-out has had no impact on the club's standing in the commercial world.

Neither, it appears, has the recent relative lack of success affected the club's popularity and the club are likely to set a new ground attendance record for a league game at Old Trafford this Sunday when Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal visit.

Gill added: 'On and off the pitch, Manchester United always seeks to be both the first and the best.

'We do things differently to others. Whether it's our faith in our Academy over the years, or our approach to sponsors - we are unique.

'The Manchester United shirt is the most iconic image in world sport and the chance for companies to appear on it is very rare.

'This deal re-establishes the club firmly among the most valuable names in world sport.'