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Technology's love affair with football

Premier League soccer teams sponsored by tech firms

Following news that printer giant Epson has inked a sponsorship deal with soccer giants Manchester United we look back on the Premier League football teams that have been sponsored by technology firms.

Just as in the real game the major teams involved are from London and Manchester.

Chelsea FC were sponsored by Commodore – one-time maker of the world’s most popular personal computer, the C-64 – from 1987-93, and by Amiga, an off-shoot of Commodore, in the 93-94 season. Both went bust in 1994, and Chelsea would have followed suit shortly afterwards if it wasn’t for a certain Russian oligarch.

Chelsea's current shirt sponsor is Samsung, which took over the sponsorship from Samsung Mobile (2005-08). (At one time Samsung sponsored now-defunct but once Premier League team Wimbledon, 1989-91.)

Local rivals Fulham were sponsored for two seasons by Demon Internet (1998-2001), Dabs (2003-5), Pipex (2005-07) and LG (2007-10). Other Internet providers sponsoring football teams included NTL, which briefly took over from Brown Ale on the Newcastle United strip.

And another west London soccer team, Queen’s Park Rangers, took Compaq’s money from 1994-6, followed by mobile giant Ericsson from 1996-2001.

Which football team kept its tech sponsor for the longest? Boringly it’s a draw.

Arsenal wore JVC on their shirts from 1981 to 1999, while Manchester United’s first shirt sponsor was Sharp from 1982 until 2000, when Vodafone stepped in from 2000-06.

Arsenal’s JVC era was followed by two seasons sponsored by the Sega Dreamcast games console. UK telecoms giant 02 took over from 2002-06.

Manchester City (sponsored by Philips from 1984-7) also had a long-running tech football sponsorship with printer manufacturer Brother 1987-1999; replaced by video games software developer Eidos from 1999-2002.

Printer and photocopier makers have a fondness for football. Oki favoured Portsmouth FC in the years 2005-09. Reading (2005-08) found a willing partner in another, Kyocera. Southampton took the name of Rank Xerox on their shirts from 1980-3, and Stoke spent 1981-5 wearing the badge of Ricoh.

Aston Villa had a decade-long partnership with photocopier maker Mita (1983-93), and were later sponsored by AST Computers from 1995-98. AST produced the Intel-based Mac286 NuBus cards that allowed Apple’s Macintosh II to run MS-DOS alongside with the Mac OS.

Did Apple ever sponsor a football team? Sadly, no. But I once heard from an Epson employee that the iPhone/iPad/Mac maker and today’s tech titan nearly sponsored Chelsea but the deal fell foul of Steve Jobs’ decision to make Apple's old rainbow logo so damn colourful. It was simply too expensive to reproduce all those colours on replica shirts, socks and kids’ duvet covers.

Tottenham Hotspur, from 1995-9, had Hewlett-Packard on their kit. In the 2010-11 season Spurs were sponsored by British software firm Autonomy, now a part of HP.

Blackburn were sponsored by now bust Time Computers from 2000-02, followed by processor maker AMD for the 2002-03 season.

Wimbledon found another doomed UK PC maker, Tiny Computer to help them out from 1991-2001. From 1994-9 Wimbledon moved on to Elonex (once a PC seller, now an Android tablet maker).

Charlton Athletic proudly wore the name of Mesh Computers on their shirts from 1998-2000. Mesh, once the UK’s biggest domestic PC maker by dint of its survival, later went bust, only to reappear recently following a time in administration.

From 1983-86 Bolton Wanderers were sponsored by local retailer HB Electronics, which even employed several short-of-cash Superwhites players.

While Liverpool FC struck sponsorship deals mainly with the less-than-tech Crown Paints and Carlsberg (although Hitachi sponsored the Reds in 1979-82) the blue side of the city wore NEC on their shirts, when the Japanese semiconductor maker sponsored Everton FC for the decade 1985-95.

Once “mighty” Leeds lived up to its “Dirty” nickname when it was sponsored by the allegedly dodgy Systime Computers, later bankrupted after suspect DEC technology trading between the USA and Russia, for the 1983-4 season. Leeds followed up with the more legitimate but oft-troubled Packard Bell from 1996-2000.

Leicester City got some dough from LG in the 2001-03 seasons.

Middlesborough spent a fruitful 1995-2002 wearing Cellnet/BT Cellnet on their shirts, followed by Garmin Sat Nav from 2007-10.

Nottingham Forest, twice European Cup winners, were sponsored by Panasonic from 1980-2.

From 2005 till 2009 Sheffield Wednesday didn’t find the net many times but did pull in some cash from local ISP PlusNet.

Display manufacturer CTX sponsored Watford 1996-9, followed by Toshiba 2001-03.

West Bromwich Albion bagged T-Mobile as sponsor from 2004-08.

Some more football/sports sponsorship facts, courtesy of the know it alls on the PC Advisor forums:

Canon, Orange and Sharp are sponsors for the European Football Championship Finals this summer. IBM is sponsoring this year's Masters (Golf) starting next week. Orange sponsored the recent African Cup of Nations. Sony are one of the sponsors for the 2014 Football World Cup.

Acer, Samsung and Panasonic are London Olympics 2012 sponsors. Orange has sponsored various cricket test matches. Olivetti were a Formula 1 sponsor during the 1980s. HP has sponsored Indycar, American Football and was associated with Golf's Ryder Cup.

Canon was the first sponsor of the English Football League, with a deal from 1983 to 1986. The camera and printer maker has also sponsored Champions League and other UEFA tournaments (such as Euro 2008), as well as the World Cup tournaments from 1978 to 1998. Canon sponsored UEFA Cup final matches from 2006/07 to 2008/09, and the UEFA Super Cup matches in 2007 and 2008. Canon Europe was also an official sponsor of the Africa Cup of Nations 2008 in Ghana and the Russian Premier Football League.

Have I missed out any great football/technology partnerships? Comment below.

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