Manchester United have begun looking for a new shirt sponsor and are confident they can improve on the current deal with troubled American insurer AIG, the club said on Wednesday.
The English Premier League giants have had AIG's logo on their shirts since 2006 as part of a partnership which, including the insurer's sponsorship of United's financial products, is worth 19 million pounds a year.
The company is now in dire financial straits, however, following a massive bailout by the US Federal Reserve last year and will not be in a position to renew its sponsorship when the current deal with United expires in 2010.
United executives have begun the process of finding an alternative sponsor and have described early interest as sufficiently promising to encourage cautious optimism that they can improve on the AIG deal despite the global economic downturn.
“We're not complacent by any means,” said United spokesman Phil Townsend. “This is the start of the process, not the end but the response has been excellent and we would hope to better the current deal.”
Indian corporation Sahara have already said they could be interested in replacing AIG. Townsend added that United, the current English, European and World club champions and an icon in British sport, would hope to conclude a deal with a new sponsor by the end of this year.
“We are 18 months away from the end of the deal and as a result we have begun to test the market.”