Bilbao break with tradition to sign shirt deal

July 29, 2008

MADRID, July 29 (Reuters) - Athletic Bilbao have broken with tradition and signed a deal with the Petronor refining company that will see their shirts bear commercial advertising in league games for the first time.

'We reached the conclusion that for a project like Athletic's to be viable it has to have the support of the local society,' club president Fernando Garcia Macua told a news conference on Tuesday.

'This agreement will help us defend our very special characteristics as a sporting club and give us the sound economic structure that will help make us competitive.'

Garcia Macua said the three-year deal would be worth €2million.

Athletic did have sponsorship on their shirts during their UEFA Cup campaign in the 2004-05 season after signing a deal with the Basque government to promote the region but they have never worn commercial shirt advertising.

The club follows a policy of only recruiting players with Basque heritage or those who have been brought up in the region.