Utilities giant to sponsor Manchester 2002 Games

The Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games has signed a top-line sponsorship agreement with United Utilities. The deal is understood to be worth more than &£3m.

The company, which owns the Norweb and North West Water brands, is only the second top-tier sponsor out of a proposed 12-strong line-up.

Manchester City Airport was the first to sign.

The organisers are also seeking a number of second-tier sponsors.

As part of the deal, United Utilities has bought 10,000 tickets, which it will give away to residents of North-west England.

The organisers of the Games, which will be the biggest multi-sports event in UK history, have been under huge pressure to secure up to &£90m in sponsorship and television rights following mounting running costs.

The lack of funding sparked a political storm last year, with an all-party select committee of MPs demanding financial action after it emerged that Manchester City Council could end up with a shortfall of at least &£30m (MW June 3, 1999).

Former New Millennium Experience Company chief Neils de Vos, who has been credited with attracting top sponsors to the Dome, was drafted in to help sports marketing agency IMG secure deals.

The BBC has already agreed to pay up to &£14m for the UK broadcast rights.

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