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Football League gets "Official Pizza Partner," still has no actual sponsor

Michael Steele

There is less than a month to go until the 2013/14 Championship season kicks off. For the last three years, fans got used to referring to the competition as the npower Championship, due to the previous sponsor's deal. That agreement has now run out and the Football League has not yet found anyone to take over the naming rights.

Three years ago, the Football League agreed a sponsorship deal with npower worth a reported £21 million (which is a very paltry sum compared to the £27.5 million that the Premier League receives from Barclays every year). That deal came to an end this summer and no replacement has been named as of yet. What the Football League has done instead is found an "Official Pizza Partner" for the new season in American chain Papa John's.

The agreement is the first time that Papa John's has explored a sponsorship deal in the UK and grants the (apparently) world's third-largest pizza company "exclusive rights to The Football League's marks, and its digital assets, including online banners, dedicated emails to league and club fans, and exclusive Facebook and Twitter promotions." Lower league fans, expect pizza-flavored emails and Facebook ads.

In a statement on the company's website, Papa John's founder, chairman and CEO, John Schnatter said:

"Papa John's is the recognized leader in quality, which extends from our superior pizza to our leading-quality partners. Much like the NFL in the US, The Football League is a premier brand in the UK, and we are delighted to be associated with the league and its passionate fans."

Richard Heaselgrave, the Football League's chief commercial officer, said:

"This is a partnership that will be really popular with fans. Like our clubs, Papa John's restaurants are located in towns and cities across the country and they will reach out to supporters with a range of promotions and custom offers."

The bigger story in all of this is that the Football League still does not have an overarching sponsorship and thus a lack of funds that would trickle down to the clubs. The issue first came up in April with the league still looking for someone to take over npower's duties. At that point, the rumored favorite was Dominos Pizza, who had taken the lead from B&Q.

The season kicks off on the 3rd of August with Bolton Wanderers taking on Burnley at Turf Moor.