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Don't Mess With FIFA

DW staff (jdk)February 6, 2006

From June 9 to July 9, the 12 host cities of the World Cup will firmly be in the grip of FIFA. Not just to promote the sporting event, but also to protect the interests of the World Cup partners and sponsors.

The stadium's name was covered in the interests of World Cup sponsors

When Germany and Costa Rica walk onto the pitch for the opening match of the 2006 World Cup, it will not be in Munich's Allianz Arena. No, the sell-out crowd of 66,000 screaming and fanatical spectators will be sitting (and standing) in the "World Cup Stadium - Munich."

It's a somewhat unbecoming moniker for what is certainly Germany's most impressive soccer arena, but rules are rules when it comes to company names. The insurance giant Allianz is not a FIFA partner, and hence, will not profit even indirectly from the tournament. The name will either have to taken down or covered during the tournament.

FIFA has signed agreements worth over 700 million euros ($840 million) with 15 international partners (42 million euros each) and six national sponsors (12 million each). The likes of Continental, Hyundai, Coca-Cola and McDonald's paid big bucks for exclusivity, and the body will do its best to ensure that nobody will crash the party.

Josef Blatter, Porträt, FIFA
FIFA head Sepp Blatter says he has an obligation to Cup sponsorsImage: dpa

When it comes to corporate presence in and around the stadiums, "A Time to Make Money" could well replace the Cup's slogan, "A Time to Make Friends." The defensive wall of the world soccer body is meant to be impenetrable and to extend beyond the ticket gates at the venues.

"We are obligated towards our partners," commented FIFA president Joseph Blatter.

When is enough enough?

The fact that Hamburg's AOL Arena will lose its name for the month-long tournament is acceptable to most people. But attempts to prohibit the appearance of non-sponsor logos and advertising within a kilometer of the stadium may be stretching it.

Logo - WM 2006
FIFA and its sponsors hope for a joyful 2006 World CupImage: AP

"In a legal sense, it is not possible to have an advertising ban around the stadiums," lawyer Hermann Schlindwein from Frankfurt told the publication Horizont Sport Business.

FIFA begs to differ. The body doesn't claim a strict physical ban is automatic, but stipulations in the agreements signed with the stadiums reveal there must be tight controls.

"In the leases, it has been clearly determined that the rented sites must be clean (of third-party) advertising when they are handed over," Gregor Lentze, managing director of FIFA Marketing and TV Germany, told Horizont Sport Business.

At the Confederation Cup last summer, bank names on ATM's within a kilometer were covered up. Journalists were even asked to put tape over the names of their computer laptops and microphones.

420 violations -- four months before the World Cup

AOL-Arena in Hamburg
Hamburg will have to remove the AOL tag from its stadiumImage: PA/dpa

The world soccer body is particularly sensitive about the use of terms like "WM 2006" -- WM being the German abbreviation for World Cup -- "Soccer WM Germany," "World Cup 2006," or "Soccer Hamburg 2006." FIFA patented some 100 variations to prevent copycat entrepreneurs from profiting. Already four months before the first goal has been scored, some 420 copyright and patent violations, 300 alone in Germany, have been prosecuted, most to the advantage of FIFA.

FIFA's aggressive preventative tactics serve a purpose, namely scaring away people, cities and companies from even entering the gray zone of World Cup advertising. There will be time for everyone to make friends, and perhaps even money, but not too close to the stadiums.