Whoops – sponsor crisis as Manchester’s big-spending clubs flop out of the Champion’s League

It’s a bad night for both Manchester United and Manchester City in the Champion’s League – Man U lost 2-1 to Swiss ‘no-hopers’ Basel and City beat Bayern Munich but failed to qualify for the knockout stages because Napoli beat Villareal in Spain.

So, for the first time in years, England has only two teams in the knockout stages of the continent’s biggest and richest tournament – Arsenal and Chelsea, neither of whom look anywhere near as good as favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid.

And the consequences for City and United? Well City have their Abu Dhabi backers with oodles of cash but they need to show to UEFA that they can justify this investment with on and off the pitch returns. And, without the Champion’s League’s closing stages, that becomes much harder.

As for United, and the owning Glazer family, going out at this stage is a complete disaster. Man U is hundreds of millions of pounds in debt thanks to the Glazers’ voracious stewardship and, despite appearing in three of the last four Champion’s League finals (and winning one of them, against Chelsea) is clearly a club in decline. Manchester City will probably win the UK’s Premier League this year.

So those businesses, sponsors and other marketing partners like AIG, who have been queuing up to pour money into the likes of Manchester United, will probably be having second thoughts. City’s Abu Dhabi backers will stick with it, for now anyway.

But it’s going to be tough few months for United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson and CEO David Gill. All of a sudden the credit card might be running out.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.