Saint FIFA

Men wearing a Lionhose. This advertisement photo from Bavaria is from the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The Dutch beer maker is again at the 2010 World Cup in trouble with FIFA for an ambush marketing stunt. Picture (c) by Flickr user H2Oloo and used under a creative commons 2.0 licence.


The one time I tried to get into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, I was stopped because I wore shorts. Bare knees are not appropriate for the Pope and his patrons. This day, at least, they missed the opportunity to save a lost soul. Now I wonder if the attitudes and strategies of the St. Peter have rubbed off on FIFA. FIFA also has a clothing police to prevent happy supporters from provoking their beneficiaries.

The cost of alcohol
During the match between Denmark and the Netherlands, 36 orange-clad women were thrown out of the stadium because they advertised for the Dutch beer, Bavaria, and two of them were arrested and given a fine of $1300. Such ambush marketing is against FIFA’s rules for marketing.

The incident has led to a diplomatic tangle between FIFA, the Netherlands and South Africa. The Dutch foreign minister has called the arrest an inappropriate reaction and the South African ambassador to the Netherlands has been told who calls the shots. As we know, alcohol leads often to trouble ...

Large sums of money
During the World Cup, FIFA has introduced exclusive zones for marketing. In these zones it is not allowed for anyone other than FIFA's sponsors to advertise. Budweiser, who is sponsoring the World Cup, was not pleased about the Bavaria stunt, so FIFA reacted.

The toughest battle between sponsors and non-sponsors have for years been between Adidas and Nike. Adidas is FIFA's sponsor; Nike is fighting a guerrilla war against the establishment. The latest stunt from Nike happened just before the World Cup when it established its own football academy in Soweto.

There is big money at stake for FIFA and its sponsors. FIFA makes approximately $1.2 billion from its sponsor deals and Adidas will make around $1.8 billion in sales just this year - much thanks to the World Cup. A one-year contract with FIFA costs between $20 - $30 million and an eight-year contract is between $250 - $300 million dollars. And to get the most out of the deal, it is important that all competitors and others that you do not like stay away.

FIFA, a political organization?
Earlier this year, FIFA denied Iranian soccer girls the right to play in hijab and during the World Cup FIFA has banned players from highlighting their relationship with Jesus. Meanwhile, FIFA allows players to wear black arm bands and hold a moment of silence when they want to honor someone who has passed away.

FIFA’s rule book is getting larger and it may begin to seem a bit counterproductive. FIFA as an organization is supposed to be politically neutral, but with its rules on politics and marketing it creates a political conflict and gives the impression of a political organization with its own positions and opinions.

With their pants down
 It is not the first time Bavaria creates trouble for FIFA during a World Cup. In 2006, hundreds of Dutch fans were asked to take off their orange lederhosen. They had to watch the match between the Netherlands and the Ivory Coast in just their underpants.

This is where FIFA and the Papal Church differ: FIFA would rather that the spectators sit in their underwear than wear clothes that might damage their sponsors, while the Papal Church wants people to wear as much clothes as possible when entering their sanctuary. Both strategies are fuel for doubters!

This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sportens Uutholdelige Letthet' on June 22 2010. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on



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