Samoa set to swallow mouthguard fine

2011-09-30 09:10

Samoa were braced today for winger Alesana Tuilagi to receive a hefty fine for wearing a mouthguard bearing a logo not endorsed by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Reports in New Zealand said Tuilagi was facing a NZ$10 000 (more than R60 000) fine for wearing the “branded” mouthguard during Samoa’s 27-7 victory over Pacific rivals Fiji last Sunday.

A Samoa team spokesperson confirmed that Tuilagi was called in to see the IRB’s match commissioner after the game in Auckland but there had still been no official word on what potential sanctions the player faced.

“We haven’t really heard anything from the IRB or the organisers,” he said, adding that he believed the situation would be clarified after Samoa’s final pool game against South Africa today.

The IRB, which earns the bulk of its revenues from the World Cup, jealously guards the tournament against attempts at ambush marketing from firms that are not official sponsors.

The Samoa spokesperson said one of the team’s players was fined at the 2007 World Cup for using headgear displaying unauthorised branding and players were briefed about the use of logos before this year’s tournament.

An IRB spokesperson declined to directly on the situation facing Tuilaga, saying any fines and warnings issed for breaching commercial terms were a contractual matter between tournament organisers and participating unions.

However, he said the number of breaches at this year’s tournament was lower than at previous editions.

“The principles of the team kit specifications are well understood by the participating teams and are in line with other major sporting events,” he said.

Samoa centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono, who had to apologise last week after likening the tournament’s scheduling to slavery, said on Twitter that players should not be punished from trying to protect themselves.

“You would think the fact players are wearing mouth guards protecting themselves would outweigh exclusive deals to make more money!” he tweeted.

“Commercialisation has unfortunately overcome all reason and rationale. $ first, player welfare last.”

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