Sponsor's fury after United snub £70m shirt contract

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Manchester United still believe that they will break the world record for a shirt sponsorship deal this week after they were accused yesterday of " double-dealing" by backing out of a £70m deal with the online gambling company Mansion when the club decided that it had reservations about a major partnership with the betting industry.

The Gibraltar-based Mansion broke their silence yesterday to launch a scathing attack on United's conduct during negotiations on what they said was a potential four-year deal. The Mansion chief executive, David Kinsman, learned of United's secret negotiations with a third party only on Sunday when the club's commercial director, Andy Anson, contacted him to say that the deal was off.

Kinsman attacked Anson and United for their late decision to switch to another bid which is expected to be announced this week. While United claim they have always made it clear they were negotiating with more than one company, they are understood to have had doubts about such a high-profile allegiance with a gambling company.

Kinsman said: "We are not naïve businessmen by any stretch of the imagination but this has left us flabbergasted," Kinsman said. " This might be the way Manchester United do business but it does not suit us. It was indicated to us that we had done a deal and I flew in from China for a meeting with Andy Anson to that effect. It was something of a surprise therefore to be told last night that United had been negotiating with someone else. During the negotiating process we had no idea this kind of double-dealing was going on. Manchester United have not acted as we expected them to."

Kinsman acknowledged that United ­ who have had an official partnership with bookmakers Ladbrokes in the past ­ had harboured doubts over the nature of Mansion's business but said that he had been given an assurance in writing from Anson as recently as Saturday that the deal would go through.

While United have kept secret the identity of their new shirt sponsor ­ only the third in their history ­ it is believed to be an entirely new name in the bidding process. Qatar Airways and Etihad airlines, based in the United Arab Emirates, were early front-runners but both have pulled out.

Even though United have risked losing out by rejecting Mansion's deal they still believe they will break the record set by Juventus with their £15m-a-year deal with the Libyan oil company Tamoil. The new deal will also break the English record set by Chelsea last year in their £10m contract with the Korean electronics company Samsung as well as Real Madrid's £14m-a-year deal with the with the Taiwanese telephone company BenQ, who are partners of the club's present sponsors, Siemens.

Yesterday Mansion took the unprecedented step of revealing confidential details about their proposed deal with United who they believe privately have conducted a campaign of leaks to the media in order to create competition. The Korean electronics firm LG were also reported to have pulled out of the running last month because of dissatisfaction at the manner in which United had treated bidders.

In their statement, Mansion described the deal as "significant" and that they would have paid the £65m-£70m deal in cash " with substantial up-front payments". The deal would also have given United a share of the profits in an online venture between the two parties. Mansion said that United had also demanded the right to buy up to 20 per cent of Mansion should the firm have launch a share issue.

Kinsman has also claimed that Mansion were not given an opportunity to meet any of the Glazer brothers. A United spokes-man defended the club's tactics, saying: "We would understand why anybody would be disappointed at not securing the shirt sponsorship deal for Manchester United. We have not and do not enter into periods of exclusive negotiation and every party we have discussed the shirt sponsorship with are aware of that.

"All the parties were aware that several discussions were going on at the same time and our priority is to look for the most appropriate deal for Manchester United. It's only the third time we have sold this property and clearly we want to get it right. We have been having discussions with Mansion, and we are sorry they feel that way and wish them every success in the future."

The Glazer brothers were the most upbeat about finding a new sponsor when United were dropped by Vodafone in November with two years of their annual £9m deal left. The three brothers ­ all club directors ­ told fellow board members that it was in United's favour to be back in the market.

World's top five deals


Company: Tamoil

Value: £15m per year

Duration: 2005-10


Company: Siemens

Value: £14m per year

Duration: 2005-10


Company: T-Com

Value: £12m per year

Duration: 2003-08


Company: Samsung

Value: £10m per year

Duration: 2005-10


Company: Vodafone

Value: £9m per year

Duration: 2003-06