Tranmere Rovers - Saturday 5th September 2009

In the current financial climate a lot of clubs are finding sponsorship money harder to come by. No more so than in the Premier League where a report earlier this month told us that total shirt sponsorship for the 20 top-flight clubs has just dropped from a high two years ago of £75 million to £65 million. Six of the big boys in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur accounting for a whopping £53 million of that.

Internet betting firms seem to be particularly popular these days, not just in football but all across the sporting world. 188Bet are sponsoring two of the smaller Premier League sides, their combined deal to have their name adorn the shirt of both Bolton and Wigan thought to have been only £1.1 million, Wanderers taking £600,000 of that while Athletic take the slightly smaller sum of £500,000.

The Premier League side that we have drawn at home in the Carling Cup, in Portsmouth, are reputed to have the cheapest deal in the top flight at present. Pompey having just this summer signed a three-year contract with Havant based online recruitment agency Jobsite for £250,000. The deal also including the renaming of the Fratton end of Portsmouth's Stadium to the Jobsite Stand, appointment as Pompey's official recruitment partner and use of the stadium facilities.

Compare that £250,000 sum to the £14 million Manchester United will be getting in the final year of its contract with AIG, the American insurance firm having said in January that they would not be continuing the deal after they suffered massive losses during the current worldwide recession. Chicago-based AON Corp are the other US insurance giant stepping up to the plate next season though with the Red Devils for a four-year contract worth a staggering £80 million.

AON Corp's books show that they are world's largest insurance broker, with 37,000 staff worldwide, and that they posted sales of $7.6 billion last year. Although like AIG they have been hit hard by the downturn in the financial sector, profits in the fourth quarter dropping to just $10million from $207m in the same period last year. That prompting a massive cost-cutting exercise in which "no stone is being left unturned", making their £80 million sponsorship spend even more surprising.

That deal is apparently the biggest in football history with the nearest five other teams to the £20 million per year being Bayern Munich (T-Home, £17.03m), Real Madrid (Bwin, £12.78m), Chelsea (Samsung Mobile, £10.73m), Schalke (Gazprom, £10.22m) and AC Milan (Bwin, £10.22). Tottenham Hotspur picking up the bronze medal as far as English clubs are concerned with their Mansion deal bringing them in around £8 million while part of Manchester City's massive budget is funded by Etihad Airways giving them £7.5 million a year.

Big spending Bwin, founded in 1999 and based in Vienna, Austria is apparently Europe's biggest online sports betting and gaming site but they have been no stranger to controversy in shirt sponsorship deals over the years. The company cancelling a contract with Werder Bremen in 2007 due to "legal pressures", while also in the same year they reputedly paid the fine received by Real Madrid.

The Spanish club punished after they refused to change their shirts in a Champions League tie at, as the circle comes fully round, Werder Bremen. The game taking place in the German state of Lower Saxony where it is illegal to advertise a private gambling company. A fine of £100,000 also coming the way of AC Milan in 2006 for displaying the Bwin logo on its shirts for a quarter-final Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

Back to the Premier League in this country though and Nigel Currie, director of brandRapport, the consultancy that produced the report into shirt sponsorship deals explains the reasoning behind the massive differences in cash between smaller clubs like Wigan and real big boys like Manchester United, Currie commenting to the Times :

"The popularity of Premier League football across 220 countries means that local sponsors have been substituted by global brands, who want worldwide exposure. They pay big money for the top names, but they want three or four-year deals and not the uncertainty that goes with the smaller teams, who could be facing relegation."

Those quotes rather borne out by Liverpool having the longest running deal of any English football club, the name Carlsberg sitting on the front of their shirts since as far as back as 1992, the contract said to be worth £7.5 million a year at present. Hereford, with Sun Valley, running from 1991 to 2009, now having Cargill, Sun Valley's parent company, on their shirts while at Brunton Park the name of Eddie Stobart, or just Stobart, has been on our Carlisle shirts since the summer of 1995.