AIG ends soccer sponsorship

UK's Manchester United finds itself logo-less after insurance giant cuts costs.

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LONDON (CNN) -- The British soccer team Manchester United - one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world - is looking for a new shirt sponsor.

AIG, whose logo currently adorns the front of the Red Devils' jerseys, announced Wednesday it would not extend its four-year deal with the World and European champions when it expires next year.

"AIG's shirt sponsorship with Manchester United runs through May 2010. We have no plans to renew the deal," the company said in a terse statement Wednesday.

In the wake of the global credit crunch, AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), an American insurance company, recently needed a $150 billion bailout from the U.S. government to avoid bankruptcy. It was booted out of the Dow Jones Industrial Index of leading companies days before the U.S. Federal Reserve took a majority stake in the insurer in September.

Manchester United receives about $19 million per season from AIG. The deal was worth nearly $25 million when the deal was signed in 2006, due to the exchange rate.

Michael Stirling, managing director of Global Sponsors, predicts they will be able to find a new sponsor who will match those figures.

"I think they will do extremely well regardless of the crisis because they have done superbly in being the world club champions. There will be a lot of interest from major brands that want to be associated with this club, no matter the price."

Sahara India, a financial services company, told the news agency the Press Trust of India it had been approached to take over from AIG starting in the 2010-2011 season. The corporation has experience in the sports market, having sponsored the Indian national cricket and hockey teams in recent years.

According to sources close to Manchester United, the club has approached other companies as well.

Experts are predicting Saudi Telecom, which already has an elaborate sponsorship deal reported to be worth more than $13.9 million, could be interested in solidifying its relationship with the club. The Middle Eastern phone company uses the British team in its advertising in Saudi Arabia and its logo appears at the club's stadium, Old Trafford.

The team has toured the United States, Africa and Asia, and just announced a new Far Eastern tour, guaranteeing the club's shirts will remain prominent across the globe.

Whatever company is picked, it should expect to fork out tens of millions of dollars per season to have its name on the shirts of one of the world's most popular teams.

Malcolm Glazer, the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team, bought Manchester United for more than $1.5 billion in 2005. To top of page

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