FA forced to accept lower fee from sponsorship of England

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The Football Association has been forced to climb down from a row with one of its most important commercial partners in order to secure a sponsorship deal for the England team worth substantially less than it had hoped to achieve.

The FA announced yesterday that the Nationwide Building Society had agreed to be the sole sponsor of the England team in a four-year deal thought to be worth £25m. Nationwide signed the deal, which will run until the end of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, after a 10-month impasse in which the FA sought a sponsor willing to pay up to £32m for the contract.

Last November, Nationwide walked away from talks after becoming disillusioned with the returns from a four-year deal that ended after the World Cup, in which it shared sponsorship rights with four other partners, including Pepsi and McDonalds.

The building society had previously enjoyed rights to sole sponsorship of the England team in a deal that expired in 2002 but was not prepared to pay the £32m sought by the FA for a new arrangement on the same basis. The FA subsequently held talks with a number of potential partners, but none were prepared to match the £32m paid by the energy supplier E.ON earlier this year for its contract to sponsor the FA Cup.

While the England team sponsorship is a desirable deal, it is less valuable than contracts with leading Premiership clubs, because the national team plays just 10 games a year and sponsors' names are not allowed on team shirts. However, Jonathan Hill, the FA's commercial manager said: "We are very comfortable with the deal agreed."

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