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Old 24th November 2005, 07:10   #1
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Default Vodafone calls time on United sponsorship

Vodafone calls time on United sponsorship
By Sam Wallace
Published: 24 November 2005

The fallout from the Glazer family's controversial takeover of Manchester United, and the club's declining success on the pitch bit deeper yesterday when Vodafone announced it had pulled out of its £36m shirt sponsorship deal at Old Trafford two years early.

While the club proclaimed that the premature end of their second contract with the mobile phone company was a chance to seek a better deal than the £9m a year contract with Vodafone, the decision will have done little to calm the Glazer family's fears about servicing their £540m debt on the club. Vodafone will cease to be the shirt sponsor at the end of the season, by when United executives hope to have a deal in place that matches Chelsea's £10m a year deal with the Korean electronics company Samsung.

Finding a replacement for Vodafone will be the first major test of chief executive David Gill's power to attract investment to United since he agreed to be part of the Glazer regime in May. With commercial director Andy Anson, originally removed from the board by the Glazers but restored at Gill's request, he will have to prove that the American multi-millionaires' fractious relationship with fans' groups has not diminished United's power in the marketplace.

Anson said that the split suited United and that they were "confident of finding a more lucrative deal". He and Gill are renowned as sharp operators in the sports rights business but it will not do United's corporate confidence much good to know that, despite breaking their deal with Old Trafford, Vodafone have kept up associations with, among others, the England cricket team and Ferrari's Formula One team, and such lower-profile sporting organisations as the Albanian karate federation and a Maltese rowing club.

United were initially resistant to Vodafone ending the contract but the sheer power of the company, which is valued at more than £78bn, was the decisive factor in bringing about an eventually amicable split so that they will continue as a "platinum sponsor" of the club. The biggest deal in European football is understood to be Juventus and Tamoil, worth £15m annually, while Real Madrid and the Taiwanese mobile phone company BenQ (£14m) and Bayern Munich and T-Com (£12m) are not far behind.

United, who were originally sponsored by Japanese electronics firm Sharp from 1982 to 1990, could opt for a Far East sponsor. It has not gone unnoticed among Old Trafford officials that representatives of Samsung are more interested in obtaining tickets to watch United than Chelsea because of the presence of South Korea international Park Ji-Sung in the team.

Will it be all right in the Stadium of Light for Ferguson's side?

Group D

Villarreal: 1 4 0 - 7 Pts

Lille: 1 3 1 - 6 Pts

Man Utd: 1 3 1 - 6 Pts

Benfica: 1 2 2 - 5 Pts

Results: 14 September: Benfica 1 Lille 0; Villarreal 0 Manchester United 0. 27 September: Lille 0 Villarreal 0; Manchester United 2 Benfica 1. 18 October: Manchester United 0 Lille 0; Villarreal 1 Benfica 1. 2 November: Benfica 0 Villarreal 1; Lille 1 Manchester United 0. Tuesday night: Lille 0 v Benfica 0; Manchester United 0 v Villarreal 0.

Remaining fixtures: 7 December: Benfica v Manchester United; Villarreal v Lille.

UNITED WIN

If United beat Benfica in the Stadium of Light they will finish either first or second and qualify.

UNITED DRAW

If United draw and Villarreal beat Lille, they will finish second and go through. But if United draw and Villarreal draw with Lille, they will finish third and go into the Uefa Cup.

If United draw and Lille beat Villarreal by more than one goal, they will finish second and qualify.

If United draw and Lille win by a single goal, Lille would win the group, with United and Villarreal level on points for second. As both games between the pair ended goalless, final placings would be determined by goal difference, then goals scored, then the clubs' respective European co-efficients - which would be to United's advantage.

UNITED LOSE

United will finish bottom and exit European competition.

http://sport.independent.co.uk/footb...icle328916.ece
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