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Sponsor's fury over Evergrande kit switch

THE car company that sponsors the shirts of Asia's newly crowned football champions has launched legal action against the club for changing their kit for Saturday's AFC Champions League final, the firm said.

Chinese-Japanese joint venture Dongfeng Nissan paid more than 100 million yuan ($16 million) for the season-long rights to Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao's apparel, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

The official red shirts are emblazoned with the firm's name in Chinese, along with a car model number.

But when the team took the field for the second leg of the AFC Champions League final -- when they defeated Al Ahli of the UAE 1-0 -- the tops were instead labelled with the Chinese name of Evergrande Life, an insurance subsidiary of one of the club's co-owners.

Dongfeng Nissan, a partnership between China's Dongfeng Motors and Nissan of Japan, which itself has an alliance with French firm Renault, issued a furious denunciation.

The club "took the liberty of unilaterally changing and replacing the chest advertisement without our company's consent", it said.

The firm had already rejected informal suggestions for the change, and only received a written request "one minute ahead of the game", it added.

The decision breached the sponsorship agreement and damaged its rights, it said, adding it had begun legal action for breach of contract.

An Evergrande executive told AFP on Tuesday that the club asked Dongfeng Nissan to negotiate over the kit change 10 days before the match but received no response.

A statement had been prepared "but we have so far refrained from publishing it because we don't want the issue to be blown out of proportion", the executive added, hoping that "friendly consultations" could settle the issue.


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