United's AIG deal in doubt

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson expressed some confidence, seven days ago, that the credit crunch would not affect his summer transfer plans, such as they might be. "If I wanted a player [in the past], the club would try to find the money. That will still be the case. The Glazer family have always delivered," the Manchester United manager said.

But one of the direct effects of the crunch, United's main sponsor AIG being bailed out and funded by the US government, is threatening to deprive the club of the final £14m installment of their sponsorship deal, with several members of the US House of Representatives now insisting that it is inappropriate for payments to continue.

"They (AIG) are no longer an independent private company. They now belong to the US government and I think that AIG should drop the sponsorship deal with Manchester United," said congressional Democrat Ed Pastor, representative for Arizona, amid the fall-out from the controversial plans to use bail-out funds to pay executive bonuses. "It is unacceptable for US taxpayer money to go to support an English soccer club," Ann Kirkpatrick, another Democrat Representative added.

AIG have told United that they will receive the final contribution before the sponsorship deals expires at the end of next season and there would presumably be financial penalties to pay if the contract were terminated early. United, meanwhile, are scouring the world for a replacement for AIG, whose sponsorship was attributable to the Glazers' contacts in the US. The Indian conglomerate Tata, which owns Tetley, Corus, Jaguar and Land Rover, and American nutrition supplement company NBTY have emerged as possible replacements for AIG, with Saudi Telecom and Sahara already having been linked with lucrative agreements with United.

Last month, the chief executive of Malaysian budget airline AirAsia also said his company was pondering whether to become United's new shirt sponsor. United will be looking for an increase on the overall £18m-a-year deal they currently have in place, but there is no suggestion that they are close to achieving that.

Though the Glazer family have already ditched one attempt at restructuring their loans because the terms were not favourable, there is no likelihood of any financial institution pulling the plug on them, despite a strong attack by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan earlier this week on the debts such owners are heaping on clubs. United would not comment on developments in the US.

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