Fifa strips supporters as ad rules are breached

FIFA has hit back at the first high-profile guerilla marketing activity at the World Cup after Dutch brewery Bavaria provided football fans with thousands of pairs of branded lederhosen for Holland’s group match against Ivory Coast.

Tom Houseman, head of legal affairs at Fifa Marketing and Television, wrote a scathing cease-and-desist letter to Bavaria chief executive officer Peer Swinkels the day after the match.

Houseman wrote that Bavaria’s marketing push threatened to undermine Fifa’s relationship with the 15 official partners of the World Cup. “Without the support of our commercial partners, it simply would not be possible to stage events on the scale of the Fifa World Cup without being obliged to resort to public funds, so it is entirely natural that we seek to ensure that the rights of our sponsors are protected,” wrote Houseman.

He also denied claims that Fifa infringed human rights by forcing fans to watch the match in their underwear: “Those spectators wearing neither shorts nor trousers under their ‘Leeuwenhose’ were permitted to gain entry without being required to remove the items.”

Fifa stadium officials in Stuttgart made the supporters take the lederhosen off before entering the ground.

Houseman defended the move, saying: “As you are aware, Fifa is the owner of all commercial rights relating to the Fifa World Cup and goes to reasonable lengths to protect these rights, particularly during the competition itself.

The organisation’s six suppliers and 15 official partners, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and US brewery Anheuser-Busch, have spent around E700m (£477.62m) in World Cup sponsorship.

Fifa has logged 2,500 violations of its IP since kicking off its World Cup 2006 rights protection programme two-and-a-half years ago.