Fifa marketing rules irk South Africans

2010-06-29 11:03

Amid the mountains of official World Cup kit on sale, frustrated

South Africans are snapping up “Feefa 2.010 Whirld cup” T-shirts as they

ridicule the world football governing body’s strict enforcement of its marketing

rules.

While giants images of Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho clad in Nike

sportswear dominate the Johannesburg skyline, Fifa’s determination to stop

smaller fish from associating themselves with the World Cup has rankled its

hosts.

Intellectual property rights lawyer Tim Burrell said: “South Africa

is no longer ruled by the rule of law.

South Africa at the moment is ruled by

Fifa.

They act very cowardly.

They won’t take on Nike because Nike is far more

powerful financially that they are. They take on the small guys and go for

them.”

Burrell is defending a man who was placed in Fifa’s crosshairs for

making keychains depicting a football, a vuvuzela and 2010 – without paying for

the right to do so.

Others to land themselves in legal hot water include two Dutch

women who were arrested for bringing into a stadium a group of women in orange

miniskirts, made by a brewery that was not an official sponsor.

They were forced to surrender their passports and pay $1 300 (about

R10 000) bail but Fifa withdrew the charges after the Dutch foreign ministry

called the case “absurd”.

A restaurant in southern Port Elizabeth was forced to take down a

picture of a football painted on its window while a bar in Pretoria was forced

to remove a banner deemed too closely linked to the tournament even before it

began.

Generally, the country feels grateful to Fifa for choosing South

Africa to host the World Cup and for standing up for the nation when sceptics

worried that the tournament would never get off the ground.

But Fifa’s rules still sometimes grate, as the global body

vigorously defends the rights of its official sponsors who have spent $1 billion

for their links to the tournament.

Fifa, which owns exclusive rights to the phrases “2010 World Cup”

and “World Cup in South Africa“, has enjoyed record revenue of $3.2 billion this

year.

Still, the organisation says it prefers compromise over litigation

and says it has been more lenient with small businesses.

Fifa said in an email to AFP: “Fifa is not preventing small local

businesses benefiting from the increased activity during the event period. On

the opposite, Fifa is much more lenient with small businesses, always embarking

on an educational and non-aggressive approach.”

Nike, however, has never been bothered even though its

advertisements around the World Cup have been so successful that many viewers

believe the company is an official sponsor, according to a study by Nielsen

group.

Others bristle at the commercial restrictions around stadiums and

fanparks where only licensed products are allowed, with a preference toward the

official sponsors.

Investigative journalist Adriaan Basson said: “Why should I be

forced to pay R30 for one reddish American beer when the pub across the road

sells local quarts for R12?”



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