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For FIFA, ambush marketing a no-no

sports Updated: Jun 16, 2010 01:35 IST

In sexy orange, identical body-hugging mini-dresses, 36 pretty women came to say 'hup, hup Holland'. They ended up being forced out of Monday's game against Denmark and questioned for over three hours at a FIFA office at Soccer City. Their offence: being dressed in an outfit made by a Dutch beer company.

FIFA's clampdown on products made by rivals of its partners or sponsors is legendary. Forget them being available in the stadium complex, even carrying them isn't allowed. At the World Cup, people don't go bottoms-up with a bottle of Pepsi by the entry gates because they are thirsty. They do it because Coca-Cola is a FIFA partner. Ditto beer, which must be downed the hatch because Budweiser is the World Cup sponsor.

Four years ago, at the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich's home ground, television sets in the media area and restaurant had their brand name plastered because they weren't Sony makes.

In Adidas, Emirates, Sony, Visa, Hyundai and Coca-Cola FIFA has six partners. They are part of all FIFA events. The World Cup, which the FIFA website reaches millions in 200 countries, also has a list of eight sponsors which includes Indian IT company Mahindra Satyam. For this edition, there are six additional national supporters.

The women's dress was given by Bavaria beer, a brand that's run into trouble with FIFA in the past. An official of the company countered FIFA's charge of ambush marketing, saying there was no branding. His claim was corroborated by Tuesday's edition of The Star newspaper, which printed a front-page picture of six women in identical orange attire and hip belts being spoken to by a man in a suit with a FIFA monogram. “FIFA doesn't have a monopoly over orange,” the company official said.

Dutch tourist Barbara Kastein said a FIFA official told her she would be forced out if she didn't leave voluntarily. Kastein refused to leave, saying she thought there was nothing wrong with the dress. “In the second half, about 40 stewards surrounded us and forced us to leave the stadium,” she told The Star. The group was then taken to a FIFA office and interrogated. “All this for wearing an orange dress.”

The police, Kastein said, accused them of ambush marketing and said it could lead to a six-month jail term here. FIFA said no arrests were made.

ITV sacks Robbie Earle for breaking norms

The Guardian adds: ITV sacked its WC pundit Robbie Earle after discovering he had passed scores of tickets, later used by a Dutch beer company, to a third party in breach of FIFA rules.