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Will Manchester United Actually Stay With AIG?

Friday, 27 Mar 2009 | 9:45 AM ET
Photo By: John Dobson

Yesterday, Reuters reported that the world’s most beloved soccer team Manchester United, whose jersey sponsor deal with AIG runs through 2010, had sent out a sponsorship proposal to the Indian conglomerate Tata Group. Tata now joins Malaysian airline Air Asia, Saudi Telecom and British insurer Prudential as those who reportedly have interest in putting its logo on the team’s jerseys.

But that’s clearly not the story here. The story is, how is Manchester United ever going to last until 2010 with AIG on its jerseys?

With $150 billion of US government support, there has been intense scrutiny on the insurer’s spending habits, including those bonuses, some of which have now been returned.

But AIG has to pay somewhere in between $20 million and $28 million to finish its four-year deal it signed with the team in 2006.

I’m not asking, like most, how is AIG doing this? I’m asking, is Manchester United and owner Malcolm Glazer really cool with sporting these jerseys as they continue their quest to win championships?

I know that it’s hard to get a quick sponsorship deal in this environment, but you have to think that it’s worth shelving the embarrassment by paying back the money from the rest of the deal and trying to sign a temporary stand-in.

I know, what about the Nike jerseys that are already in production for next year? As explained by the London Telegraph recently, should AIG change the name to AIU would be responsible for the jersey change, but obviously if ManU ditches AIG, or whatever they’ll be called, for a blank jersey or another sponsor they would probably have to foot the bill.

How embarrassing would it be then that ManU will be wearing the AIG logo on their chests as they try to win the Champions League in Rome in May?

The answer seems to be that it’s not embarrassing enough.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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