With no football on the immediate horizon, Manchester United are almost certainly turning their attention towards off the pitch matters, Ed Woodward’s speciality – the business side of things.
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The latest rumblings are that the next item on the agenda is identifying a new shirt sponsor, as the club are set to part ways (via The Sun) with Chevrolet – at least when it comes to kits.
Chevrolet driving to the exit doors?
The suggestion is that the American manufacturer – owned by multi-national automotive corporation, General Motors – feel they overpaid for the partnership, given United’s underachievement since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, and are not expected to renew.
Chevrolet has been the club’s main shirt sponsor since 2014 and the unprecedented, £450 million deal, remains the biggest of its kind in sporting history. (fee via The Times)
That being said, and to the delight of most fans, next season is likely to be the last we’ll see that oversized logo on the front of our shirts, with the club entering the final stint in its seven-year contract.
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Like it or not, shirt sponsors are a huge part of football: they are readily associated with players, teams and even entire eras in a club’s history, so trust us when we say they are a big deal in every sense of the word.
So, who’s next? Well, with the advent of sleeve sponsors arriving in the Premier League over the past two seasons, one candidate is United’s recent principal partner, Kohler, the American kitchen and bathroom manufacturer. Should they strike a deal, it would cost them an arm, but it would grant them an upgrade, putting them centre-stage on the front of shirts from 2021 onwards.
Not only have Reds had a year of adjusting to the new name on their shirts, but the much plainer, less imposing logo design would likely appeal to fans and board members alike, not to mention its American ownership making it favourable to the Glazers. The question is, would they have the money to make a deal of such size?
Another possibility is the return of Aon. Whilst they haven’t been on our match shirts for some years, the American insurance firm has remained connected to United for over a decade. After reaching an eight-year agreement in 2013, not only did they become the club’s training kit sponsor, but Carrington was officially named the Aon Training Complex, in a deal totalling £180m overall.
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It’s clear that the company still have the financial firepower to compete with the likes of Chevrolet and, obviously, being the main sponsor for one of the biggest clubs in the world is always going to be tempting. But with their name quite literally on the doors of the training ground already, are they happy with their current arrangement?
An east wind
The most serious of discussions are reported to have taken place with Chinese electronics company, Haier. According to The Sun, the rapidly growing, global corporation are rumoured to have proposed a record £70m-a-year deal, which would surpass Chevrolet’s annual contribution by approximately £6m.
This move makes a lot of sense, given that United has a huge fan base across Asia and already has a number of Chinese partners. However, this particular deal, like the one with Chevrolet, would be yet another reminder of the club’s heavily criticised commercialism over the years.
Another slightly jarring aspect is that in 2019, Haier bought Italian home appliance manufacturers, Candy, who famously featured as Liverpool’s shirt sponsor from 1988 to 1992. Whilst this may not bother the likes of Woodward and co., and we have obviously shared kit suppliers, it still may not feel right for many fans.
Regardless, the Haier Group’s most recent statement denies that any official contact has been made with the club and, as of yet, there has been no concrete reports of any new sponsor being agreed. Long gone are the days of Sharp, Vodafone and AIG, but hopefully whatever comes next won’t ruin future strips and will go on to define the next great chapter in Manchester United’s history.