Sunday 16 June 2019

Ryanair snubs €25m Man Utd shirt deal offer

Man City fan O'Leary said it was 'too expensive'

NO FLY ZONE: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney sees red
NO FLY ZONE: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney sees red

Nick Webb

Ryanair snubbed an approach from representatives of Premier League champions Manchester United, who were seeking to sell the low-cost airline a massive shirt sponsorship deal.

It is understood that Manchester United's agents contacted Ryanair about the deal when former sponsor US insurance firm AIG imploded. AIG was replaced as shirt sponsor by Aon last year at the start of the 2010/11 season.

Ryanair was offered the shirt sponsorship for "around €25m" according to chief executive Michael O'Leary. However, the approach was turned down by Manchester City fan O'Leary.

The sponsorship opportunity was "too narrow", he added. "It was too expensive for what it was worth to us."

In July, when he opened Ryanair's new base in Manchester, O'Leary turned up wearing his Manchester City football jersey -- despite the fact that it was sponsored by another airline, Etihad.

Last year, Aon replaced AIG as Manchester United's shirt sponsor after signing a record €91m four-year deal. AIG had paid around €64m to sponsor the club's kit for four years in 2006. However, the financial crisis saw AIG almost go under before it was rescued by the US authorities.

"Manchester United gives the Aon brand a truly global platform with exposure to the world's largest fan base of more than one billion soccer fans and the more than 330 million Manchester United fans over a wide variety of distribution channels," said Aon chief executive Greg Case after agreeing the deal.

The agreement included opportunities for joint product marketing and services to Aon clients.

Apart from its Aon shirt deal, Man Utd also has inked with the likes of Turkish Airlines, Betfair, Singha, Thomas Cook, Epson, Vina Concha y Toro and several other big companies.

Although O'Leary's €5bn airline sponsors the Ryanair chase at the Cheltenham horse racing festival, it does not splash its branding around.

As part of its marketing campaign, the airline promised to release 10,000 flights at €8 each for every Irish winner at Cheltenham this year. The 10 Irish winners -- including O'Leary's own horse, Carlito Brigante -- saw Ryanair put 100,000 cheap flights up for sale. O'Leary has ruled out other major sponsorships including GAA jersey deals.

Along with the collapse of the economy, Irish investment in the English Premiership has slumped in recent years. Ellis Short, the private equity billionaire with an Irish passport, owns Sunderland Football Club. Irish investors including publican Charlie Chawke and the Drumaville consortium sold out to Short in 2007. Irish bookmaker Boylesports signed a €3.3m-per-year deal to become Sunderland shirt sponsor in 2007.

JP McManus and John Magnier were major shareholders in Man Utd before selling out to the Glazers in 2004. Dermot Desmond is the key player at Celtic but there are few other Irish investors at football clubs across the water.

In 2003, the Sunday Independent revealed that O'Leary had been offered the chance to buy a stake in Manchester City.

"I wrote back a very nice letter saying, 'Thank you very much, I've been a life-long supporter of Man City. They've broken my heart on many occasions -- but I'll confine my support to going to Maine Road twice a year," he told the Sunday Independent.

"Can you imagine buying a controlling interest in an English team? You'd be all over the back pages of the papers."

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