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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sahara's Roy to meet Man Utd officials on June 5

If all goes well, the chief sponsor of the Indian cricket team could also be sponsoring the world's richest soccer club. Sahara India, the Subrata Roy led multi-business conglomerate with a turnover of more than Rs 90,000 crores is in advance talks to replace American International Group (AIG) as the premier jersey sponsor of the English champions.

A Sahara official confirmed that his chief will be in London on June 5 to talk to club officials about a possible deal. "The chairman is going to London on June 5 to finalise the deal. We think that if we can sponsor such a huge club it will give an opportunity for Indian footballers to play as well," he said.

AIG's four-year $56.5 million agreement with the club is the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in English football. It ends in May 2010 and the American company has already said it will not renew it as it recovers from the global financial crisis.

The amount of the deal with Sahara may go up to as much as $100 million for five years, near double of their existing deal with AIG. The Sahara deal might well be beneficial to United, who can add on to their existing fan base across Asia. The source said that might just clinch the deal for Sahara. "Apart from the Asian market, they can expand their fan base in India which is a huge market for them."

But there are other issues as well. It is believed that while United can cash in on the Asian market with a Sahara logo on the T-shirts, Old Trafford officials fear of losing out on a more global audience.

The other hassle for them is the revenue sharing. "This will be one of the major points of discussion when the two sides meet," the source said.

Another Indian company, infrastructure based group GMR was also linked to a sponsorship of English club Liverpool. British newspaper 'News of the World' had reported towards the end of April that GMR owner Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao may take over the club for £450 million (around Rs 3,300 crore). However, GMR subsequently denied the move.

Two other Indian groups, the Tatas and telecom major Bharti Airtel are also in the loop for the Manchester United sponsorship deal. However, Airtel, who recently signed a multi-million-dollar deal with the English champions for mobile phone content, said they would not bid for the T-shirt sponsorship.

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