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Hatrick for Suarez; Three Strikes and you are out

Fifa have handed Suarez the longest ban in World Cup history which will see Suarez barred from all ‘football related activity’ for a period of 4 months.

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The ban is the biggest in World Cup history, beating the eight games given to Italy’s Mauro Tassotti for elbowing Spain’s Luis Enrique in 1994.  Suarez was handed a fine of around £65,000 which is lower than his weekly wage and lower than the £80,000 fine handed out to Arsenal and Danish international Nicklas Bendtner for displaying sponsored underwear during Denmark’s game against Portugal. The sponsor of the said underwear were betting giant Paddy Power who reveled in the public exposure of the fine handed to Bendtner, so much so that they paid the £80k on his behalf.

A betting company that weren’t so accommodating with the media attention following the Suarez biting incident were online gambling firm 888poker who said publicly that they had ‘decided to terminate its relationship with immediate effect’.

Suarez is also sailing close to the wind with his other big time sponsors including Pepsi, Beats and Adidas. Suarez could lose out on a $1.4 million boot deal with Adidas as they will undertake a thorough review of their current arrangement with the Uruguayan following the conclusion of the World Cup.

Suarez is not the first athlete to land themselves in hot water with sponsors; Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong lost many of their headline sponsors following the former’s infidelity and the latter’s doping indiscretions. The actions of Nicolas Anelka and the now infamous ‘quenelle’ goal celebration saw Zoopla end their sponsorship of West Browich Albion. So what can sponsors do to shield their brand against the unwanted actions of the players they sponsor?

Most sponsors attempt to proactively protect themselves from foreseeable breaches of ‘Morality’ by having their legal advisors draft specific clauses into their sponsorship agreements with an athlete. ‘Disrepute’ or ‘Morality’ clauses are brought into play by a triggering event which brings the individual, club and / or sponsor into disrepute, or if an athlete’s behaviour falls below expected levels of morality.

Coca-Cola had the foresight to construct such a clause under which Lance Armstrong provided contractual warranties assuring Coca-Cola that he was free from performance-enhancing drugs. When the US Anti-Doping Agency announced that Armstrong had led “The most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme sport has ever seen”, Coca-Cola were able to terminate their deal with the 7-times Tour de France winner without recourse to Litigation. In contrast the insurance company SCA Promotions are locked in a legal dispute with Armstrong’s legal team in an effort to recoup $12m in bonuses which the firm paid out for his wins between 2002-2004.

The question for the current sponsors of Luis Suarez will fall down to the 4 P’s; profits, publicity, perception and poaching. Will the actions of Suarez see a loss in revenue for the sponsors?  When Kate Moss was photographed using drugs, a lot of companies terminated their sponsorship contracts with her. However, less than a year later she had signed many new lucrative sponsorship contracts. The old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity is certainly apparent if the aftermath of the biting scandal. Could it be argued that 888poker have received more publicity than they could ever have envisaged by publicly dropping Suarez as an ambassador of their brand. They were the first sponsor out of the blocks to denounce the actions of the Uruguayan. They have enjoyed raised awareness of their brand over the world cup period, signing Suarez as an ambassador in the lead up to the finals in Rio and then the social media exposure when they dropped Suarez. 888poker have made a clean-break from the player and will not have to continue paying huge sums of money to use the player’s name. Did they just target the World Cup to maximise exposure of their partnership or was there a longer term plan?

All the sponsors will have received greater publicity from the incident but the question the sponsors will ask themselves is what is the public’s perception of their brand in light of the actions of the player? The racism allegations of Suarez’s past surely overshadow biting a player on the pitch but the sponsors have stuck by the Uruguayan previously. Sponsors may perceive if they stick by an individual through the bad times and they turn themselves around that will have the potential for greater value with the public. The story of David Beckham is living proof. Many sponsors would have questioned their association with the midfielder following his red card in the France ’98 World Cup but who would not want to be partnered with the global phenomenon of brand Beckham 16 years on? So finally poaching; Adidas must be talking behind closed doors that if they drop Suarez will their fierce rival Nike snap up the striker straight away and enjoy the fruits of Suarez’s on field success. His performances last season and at the World Cup itself have attracted footballing giants Real Madrid and Barcelona keen to sign the player.

Jim Pearson – Sports Consultant and ex Head of Nike UK

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Choix sponsors Macmillan Golf Day

Macmillan Golf Day posterChoix were honoured to sponsor the Macmillan Golf Day recently held at Silkstone Golf Club.

Organised by Choix Consultant Adrian Rattenbury and hosted by Choix Consultant John Hendrie, the event raised an impressive £4001.54 for Macmillan Cancer Support. With over 98% of Macmillan’s income coming from Fundraising and Donations, events such as this Golf Day are critical for Macmillan to continue to provide support to cancer patients and their families.Many thanks to everyone who attended and supported the event.

 

 

Choix Consultant Diskin from Captain to Caretaker Coach

Choix Consultant Matt Diskin has stepped into the breach following the sacking of his close friend and former teammate Francis Cummins.

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The Bulls currently find themselves 8 points off nearest rivals Wakefield Wildcats, despite having won 4 games to the Wildcats 5. The gap stands at 8 points due to a 6 points deduction that was handed to the team following the club going into administration. Bradford received the points deduction from the RFL in February after the club slipped into administration for the second time in two years.

Earlier this month, the Bulls unsuccessfully appealed to have their points reinstated on the grounds that they could not have reasonably foreseen the financial circumstances surrounding the previous ownership group.

The points deduction in previous seasons would not have been quite as damaging under the franchise system, as with no threat of relegation if the club could turn things round financially they would satisfy Super League requirements to remain as a franchise. However this season sees the league being cut from 14 to 12 teams in a bid to make the Super League more competitive.

Super League began in 1996 with 12 clubs; it went briefly to 14 in 1999 before reverting to 12 a year later. It stayed at 12 until 2009 when Crusaders and Salford were admitted as part of a new licensing system.

The licensing system has come under scrutiny as, year on year, clubs have delivered annual trading deficits and too many dead rubber games at the end of the season where teams have nothing left to play for. The licensing system was voted for in 2009 to help develop home grown talent on the field because, without the threat of relegation, coaches could select promising youngsters to represent their respective clubs and gain valuable first team experience.

Choix Consultant Diskin is acutely aware of the threat of relegation and the situation the club are currently in:-

These are not ideal circumstances for us as a club or as a team, however I am, as captain of the Bradford Bulls, the next in line to guide the team into battle. Having said that, I do not for one minute believe or see this as an opportunity to achieve anything as a coach. It is a short-term fix. I am standing in and have no intention of continuing in this role long-term.”

The bookmakers favourites to take over the helm are Bradford legends Brian Noble or Jimmy Lowes. Noble has been without a club since parting company with Salford City Reds and Lowes is reportedly on a rolling contract with the Union side Leeds Carnegie.

On behalf of the rest of the Choix team we wish Matt and the Bulls all the best with the remainder of their Super League campaign under his guidance as caretaker coach.

Choix

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Believe It or Not! FIFA is a Charity

With the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, little over a week away, FIFA seems to have reached calmer waters after a series of corruption allegations over the last two years.

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All be it that there is much consternation that the World Cup will be as successful as hoped given the political, social and construction difficulties that are in the news almost daily.

In addition, whilst Sepp Blatter is in his fourth and final term as FIFA president there continues to be an undercurrent of bribery and corruption allegations notwithstanding that the 2012 FIFA Congress in Budapest presented a new set of statutes aimed at making FIFA more transparent.

Many feel that even with the cosmetic changes that FIFA have sought to make over recent years, there is a need for a more robust independent investigative organization and ethics committee, while drawing up a comprehensive plan for rooting out corrupt practices at FIFA.

Also in dire need of reform is the manner in which World Cup hosts are selected. With such huge sums of money and international political ramifications at stake, such important decisions can no longer be made wholly in private by a tiny group of unaccountable individuals.

FIFA’s development and evolution has mirrored that of the wider soccer world. In its growth from amateur passion to professional excess, and transformation from small, voluntary agency into a huge, global giant.

A few years ago, the BBC highlighted six surprising facts about this secretive overlord of world soccer:

  1. It is a registered charity. FIFA pays very little tax in its home country of Switzerland. It also requires tax exemption in countries wishing to host a World Cup competition. “Any host country requires a comprehensive tax exemption to be given to FIFA and further parties involved in the hosting and staging of an event,” a spokesman told the BBC last year. The 2010 tournament – the most expensive yet – cost South Africa 33bn rand (£3bn; $4.86bn). Yet, a “tax-free bubble” was established around the event at FIFA’s request, relieving FIFA, its subsidiaries, and foreign soccer associations of any obligation to pay income tax, customs duties or VAT.
  1. This charitable status dates from its early days as a tiny voluntary organisation run on goodwill from a suburban villa in Zurich.
  1. Broadcast rights to the first televised World Cup – the 1954 tournament hosted by Switzerland and won by West Germany – were given away for nothing. With a global TV audience numbering many millions, FIFA realised this was a goldmine. By 1986, TV rights sold for 49m Swiss francs (£35m) – a fraction of the $2.4bn in broadcast earnings for the period of the last World Cup.
  1. FIFA set the template for modern sports sponsorship after an awkward scramble to secure advertising rights for its new partner, Coca-Cola, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. A military coup two years earlier threw up a dilemma for the organisers. With no control over the stadia, and no advertising agreements in place, how could FIFA ensure the soft drinks giant had a presence in such a strictly controlled country? It came down to money. FIFA asked Coca-Cola to advance it an extra 12m to 15m Swiss francs to buy these rights from Argentina, so it could then offer the company an exclusive relationship at its own event.
  1. Globalisation of the game came under Joao Havelange, FIFA seventh president and Sepp Blatter’s predecessor. Spain expected to host 16 nations when it bid for the 1982 tournament; FIFA decided later this would be rounded up to 24, as Mr Havelange made good on his election promises to bolster training and opportunities for teams from Asia and Africa. To subsidise this, FIFA again went cap-in-hand to Coca-Cola for an extra $40m in sponsorship. The only way to make this worthwhile was to guarantee its sponsors wide-ranging benefits from exclusive signage, licensing and merchandising. As a consequence, the package of exclusivity and global coverage that defines modern sports sponsorship was born.
  1. FIFA has more member countries than the United Nations – 208 to the UN’s 192. Only eight internationally recognized countries are not FIFA affiliates, including Vatican City, Kiribati and Monaco. How different then from its origins in 1904, when the representatives of seven European football associations banded together with the aim of improving soccer’s international reach.

 

Jim Pearson – Sports Consultant

Choix

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