Rangers secure new £6.5m kit deal

RANGERS have announced a new four-year kit sponsorship with the sportswear giant Umbro which could be worth in excess of £6.5million a year to the club.

The deal renews a relationship which began in the 1960s and was perhaps best remembered for the shirts worn by Graeme Souness’ championship- winning team in the late 1980s.

The new partnership will see Rangers wearing the Umbro brand on all of the club’s playing and training kits. "It’s great news that the club is back in partnership with Umbro, an authentic football brand," said Alex McLeish, the Ibrox manager.

Nick Peel, Rangers’ retail brand director, added: "This deal, for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, will continue to see Rangers manufacture and distribute its own replica kit. We anticipate this ground-breaking initiative will deliver over 6.5million to the club per annum."

The new kit will be launched on 12 May and the deal replaces the current shirt sponsorship deal with Diadora.

Celtic, who are currently with Umbro, last year announced they were changing to Nike in a lucrative agreement.

Meanwhile, Rangers’ Bank of Scotland Premierleague game with Dundee United has been rescheduled for Tuesday, 12 April (7.30pm kick-off), while the next Edinburgh derby will be played just over 24 hours later at Tynecastle due to the previous weekend’s Tennent’s Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden.

Hibs’ televised league clash with champions Celtic on Sunday is heading for a sell-out with only 900 tickets for the Easter Road side’s fans unsold.

Meanwhile, Hibs officials will hold talks with their counterparts at the SFA at the beginning of next week to find out how many tickets the Easter Road side will receive for their Scottish Cup semi-final with Dundee United on 9 April.

Elsewhere, Aberdeen have been linked with a move for Linfield’s promising young striker Peter Thompson. Jimmy Calderwood’s side had a scout in Northern Ireland this week to watch Thompson net twice in Linfield’s County Antrim Shield final win over Crusaders. The double took his tally for the season to 24 goals.

The owner of Third Division Gretna, Brooks Mileson, meanwhile, yesterday donated 10,000 to the trust funds at Second Division Berwick Rangers. "We thank him for this generosity," said a spokesman for bottom-of the-table Berwick.

• England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has won his battle to secure a four-week break before the World Cup finals next summer after it was announced that the FA Cup final will be held on Saturday, 13 May, 2006 at the new Wembley Stadium.

The FA board had an option to stage the final on 20 May but have agreed on 13 May - as a knock-on effect the end of the Premiership season will be brought forward a week - and in return have had to scrap replays in the FA Cup fifth and sixth rounds for clubs still involved in Europe.

Sides in the UEFA Cup will not be required to play replays in the FA Cup fifth round or quarter-finals, while those in Champions League will not have quarter-final replays and any ties affected will go to extra time and penalties if necessary.

FIFA had allowed the FA special dispensation to play next season’s final, the first match at the new Wembley Stadium, on 20 May if necessary but Eriksson has been insistent England need the full four weeks’ preparation time before the World Cup that other countries will have.

Meanwhile, Adrian Bevington has been appointed as the FA’s new director of communications. He replaces Colin Gibson, who resigned in August at the same time as previous chief executive Mark Palios after the scandal involving FA secretary Faria Alam.

England and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham last night said he would like to finish his playing career in Spain.