$28 Million in AIG Taxpayer Money Spent on Manchester United

Last Updated Mar 19, 2009 6:47 AM EDT

The AIG bonuses scandal has an advertising side (of course): AIG will give $28 million to Manchester United, the world's richest football club, to complete its sponsorship deal through 2010, according to CityFile.

The AIG logo has appeared on the front of Man U's shirts since a $100 million deal was struck in 2006. Until recently, this has paid off for both AIG and Manchester -- the team is top of the English Premier League and probably has more fans globally than any other club.

But now, as everything associated with AIG turns to dust, American taxpayers are starting to ask questions about where their bailout money is going. "To Portugese pretty-boy Cristiano Ronaldo" (pictured) is not one of the answers that they want to hear.

Especially as it will not be difficult to replace AIG as a sponsor at Old Trafford, the club's ground.

Or will it? When the crisis at AIG broke, Man U quickly said it had no interest in replacing AIG. This may have been because it would be legally difficult given the existing contract. But with AIG strapped for liquidity, pulling back an extra $28 million would have been welcome.

So the spotlight falls on the team -- why keep this hated brand name on the strip? It could be because Man U needs so much money from any potential sponsor that living with the embarrasment of AIG is easier than finding an even richer advertiser. The club is known to carry a huge level of debt following its takeover by sports franchise mogul Malcolm Glazer. And the team has been looking for a new partner since at least January and made no announcements.

Man U may, however, have found a replacement with the requisite cash. Of course, it's an Arab company, Saudi Telecom. A photo of a prototype Man U away shirt -- in a handsome retro 1909 replica design (pictured) -- has appeared on EPLTalk, showing the Saudi logo.

Disclosure: The author is a Liverpool FC fan. 4-1!