Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blowing the Whistle on Man U's Latest Sponsor

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blowing the Whistle on Man U's Latest Sponsor

Article excerpt


AT some stage next season, I will have to explain to my young, football-crazy son what AIG stands for. Nothing new in that: down the years, I've had to describe several of the more obscure corporate logos adorning Premiership shirts (Everton's Chang and Aston Villa's DWS still cause him problems). So, come the great kick-off in August, I'm certain to be asked about the initials on Manchester United's.

Of course, I will say the club's latest sponsor is a huge American insurance company. He may quiz me further. "Does everyone connected with Man U have to be American, Daddy?" I don't know, but AIG joins the Glazer family from Florida and Nike from Oregon as the key influences on the English club. (The ironic chant of "USA" often deployed by opposition-fans has clearly been taken literally.) "What are they like?" According to David Gill, Man U's chief executive, AIG is "an organisation with the right pedigree, one hungry to be involved with us, one as ambitious as us, one that shared our vision and one that could take full advantage of United's global reach." In deciding to go with the insurer, said Gill, the club assessed "the size and structure, the culture and ethos. We believe we have found a good bedfellow." So they're okay.

"But why are you pulling that face, Daddy?"

Well, let's just say the company isn't everything Gill would have us believe. "What do you mean?" They've done some crooked things, they pretended they were better off than they were. They got found out by a man called Eliot Spitzer - a bit like a detective in The Bill, but much more important. They owned up and paid $1.6 billion ([pounds sterling]900 million) to stop him and others in America investigating them.

"Are the men who did it, still there?" The man in charge, who was called Hank Greenberg, was sacked, as were some of the other senior people. Spitzer hasn't given up on Greenberg. "Does that mean 'Hank Whatever' could be in court while Man U are playing?" Yes, almost certainly. "How funny is that!"

"Wait - if Greenberg and the others aren't there, doesn't that make AIG fine? …

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