Long ball: from US taxpayers to England’s Premier League

By Laurie Bennett

July 31, 2012 at 7:55am

While the federal bailout may or may not have saved the the American auto industry, it’s doing wonders for English football.

General Motors, which received more than $50 billion in emergency funding, has signed an expensive marketing deal with Manchester United. The contract, valued by Reuters at as much as $600 million, calls for Chevrolet to sponsor team shirts beginning in 2014.

GM announced another soccer deal last week, saying it had entered a four-year auto sponsorship with Liverpool Football Club.

Manchester United logo

GM isn’t the only bailout recipient to sponsor the team. Before its collapse, American International Group also had a marketing deal with Manchester. The insurance giant would later be propped up by $182 billion in federal aid.

As MarketWatch blogs: “One of England’s most popular soccer teams appears to have a soft spot — right in the center of its jerseys — for the U.S. taxpayer.”

Manchester’s majority owner is Palm Beach billionaire Malcolm Glazer, who also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s about to sell club shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to filings Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Glazer family members have used Manchester as a sort of personal bank. The team has loaned Glazer’s children a total £10 million (nearly $16 million). IPO documents said the money was borrowed “for general personal purposes.”

Reuters reports that Manchester fans are accusing the Glazers of “milking” the team for cash, rather than paying down its debt.

But Brits concerned about greedy Americans might note that stock sales on the NYSE will bring in American cash. And Chevrolet’s sponsorship means, at least indirectly, that U.S. bailout dollars work their way to Manchester.

Skeptics, of course, will say that those dollars eventually will wind up in the Glazers’ pockets.

That loop doesn’t necessarily return the money to U.S. soil. Manchester United Ltd., the Glazer-controlled holding company for the team, is based in the Cayman Islands.

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