Football: Show United the mad money

Modern football sold its soul a long time ago.

Still, no one ever thought the game would sell fabric softener.

While the rest of the planet focused on mundane sporting issues such as World Cup play-offs and international friendlies in recent weeks, Manchester United concentrated on inking a deal with their new laundry partner.

That's right. A club of United's stature need a laundry partner.

In the UK at least, a laundry partner has disturbing connotations. The 24-hour local laundry - or laundrette - is often a place to take a girl as a last resort to keep out of the freezing rain and maybe sit on the spin dryer when no-one's looking.

So when I discovered that Wayne Rooney and company had laundry partners in nine countries, I immediately thought: My word, those boys have been busy. No wonder their form has been so erratic.

I thought Ashley Young had been hanging out in seedy, rundown laundrettes across South-east Asia. He does like a dive after all.

But his club had merely signed their 872nd sponsorship deal in South-east Asia. Unilever and United agreed on a three-year sponsorship agreement across nine countries, including Singapore.

Astonishingly, this news was dutifully carried across all media outlets in the region. Most seemed gleefully happy to report that United had chosen Unilever to be the club's "first official personal care and laundry partner in South-east Asia".

There are thousands of questions spinning around, but I'll settle on two. Why do United need an official laundry partner? Why do they need one in South-east Asia?

Presumably, they must have pictured United fans weeping in front of the washing machines and crying: "If only there was a way I could show my devotion to my beloved club further each time I wash my red and white undies."

Fear not, United disciples. Your insane prayers have been answered. The next time you do your washing, don't use any brand of laundry powder. Use United's official laundry partner.

At United, they pride themselves on tackling stubborn stains and unsightly images. Just look at what they did with Rooney's hairline.

Perhaps such tribal rituals in the washroom will lead to divorce hearings in the court room.

Traumatised husbands will dab their watery eyes as they mutter: "I always knew she was a Liverpool fan, your honour, and I accepted that. We live in a tolerant society.

"But when she poured my United laundry powder down the chute and washed my replica David de Gea gloves in regular detergent, I knew there was no way back.

"I felt soiled. I accepted that she wouldn't wash her Liverpool jersey in my Unilever liquid. But when she put our jerseys together in the same spin cycle while chanting 'you'll never wash alone', we were finished."

But the ludicrous list of sponsors on United's official website - yes, there is a detailed sponsors' section - extends to two full pages.

Official apparel, jersey and beer sponsors are pretty standard within the industry, but the Red Devils also have an official paint sponsor.

Do they sell tins of only red and white paint? I'm guessing a customer is thrown out of a paint store if an employee asks for a preference and the customer replies: "Blue is the colour. Football is the game!"


Without highlighting every United brand in exhaustive detail, there are official sponsors for timekeeping, medical services, wine, automotives, motorcycles (both separate), African telecoms, noodles, tomato juice in Japan, tyres in India and a travel company.

I'm not sure if their rivals Manchester City have an official travel partner, but the way they're travelling at the moment, the sponsor might ask for its money back.

Much closer to home, of course, Singaporeans cannot step into a supermarket without Mister Potato smiling back at them from the shelves. He is the official savoury snack partner of United.

Notice he's only the "savoury snack" partner, to enable further diversification and lucrative revenue streams from perhaps a "sweet snack" partner, a "spicy snack" partner and a "it's so sour you end up with a face like a smacked backside" partner.

Anything is possible when you consider that the club have an official airline carrier in Aeroflot.

Now, surely, Aeroflot's only mission in life is to make other airlines feel better.

Apparently, Russia's No. 1 airline - how much competition would they have? - has improved in recent years, but the stigma regarding dodgy standards and service remains.

Everyone knows an Aeroflot joke. My particular favourite is...

Aeroflot stewardess: "Do you want a meal?"

Passenger: "What are the options?"

Stewardess: "Yes or no."

Still, Aeroflot is now the official airline carrier for the most popular sports franchise on the planet. Its stock must have risen rapidly.

And you couldn't always say that about its planes.

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