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A short history of soccer shirt sponsors going bust

Reuters/Toby Melville
More cheerful that his sponsor’s employees, that’s for sure.
  • Kabir Chibber
By Kabir Chibber


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This week, the Swiss central bank’s decision to scrap its cap on the value of the franc put a few unfortunate firms out of business—including the currency dealer, Alpari, which is the principal sponsor for Premier League soccer club West Ham United:

Reuters/Toby Melville

Worse, it seems that this plucky club from the East End of London are magnets for insolvent sponsors. In 2008, their main shirt sponsor, the holiday firm XL, collapsed during the financial crisis, owing the club £8 million ($12 million):

Reuters/Darren Staples

For a time, the players even had to play with the logo covered up. It is unclear if West Ham will have a short sponsor on their chests when they play tomorrow:

And one-time shirt sponsor, Dr Martens, narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2002:

Reuters/Ian Hodgson

West Ham’s owner at the time was Iceland’s Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, chair of his country’s biggest bank, who lost all his wealth when the bank was nationalized during Ireland’s economic collapse. Gudmundsson was declared personally bankrupt in 2009.

The financial crisis claimed a few more shirt sponsors of some of the most-watched teams in world soccer. Newcastle was sponsored by Northern Rock, which collapsed in February 2008 after the first run on a British bank in more than a century:

Reuters/Luke MacGregor

And Manchester United were sponsored by insurer AIG, which was nationalized by the US Federal Reserve in September 2008 to the tune of $85 billion. (Memes going around at the time replaced the letters “AIG” on the United kit with “FED.”)

Reuters/Toby Melville

This meant, for a time, two teams met in England whose primary sponsors were the British Treasury and the US central bank, respectively. Newcastle is now sponsored by Wonga, a highly-controversial payday lender of small amounts of money to poor people at really high interest rates.

And lest we make out that it is just English teams that suffer from this curse, in 2006, Real Madrid’s sponsor BenQ went bust just past a year into a five-year deal.

Reuters/Susana Vera

And BenQ was replaced as Real Madrid’s shirt sponsor straight away by Bwin, a sports betting company. Of course they were.

Reuters/Gustau Nacarino

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