Wednesday June 27, 2012 at 2:36pm
Last week Nicklas Bendtner hit the headlines.
Typically for the striker, it was for something other than his footballing ability. However, perhaps strangely on this occasion it was easy to feel sorry for him.
In nearly every other aspect, Nicklas Bendtner is, shall we say, a difficult player to like. He has some ability, but he does seem to have a rather inflated sense of his own self-worth.
That said, dropping his shorts to reveal a sponsors logo last week after scoring a goal cost him €100,000 and a one game ban. Whatever you feel about the merits or otherwise of so called “ambush marketing” (that is to say when an unauthorised sponsor finds a way to get their logo shown at a big tournament) the level of punishment does perhaps reveal something about UEFA’s thinking.
A quick look down a list of the punishments UEFA has handed down in the last five years shows us – perhaps – where their priorities lie.
In 2007 the Serbian FA were fined £16,500 for racist chanting by their fans towards Nedum Onuoha, while in 2008 the Croats displayed a racist banner and got fined £10,000.
Now, perhaps it is easy to say these things are in the past and that UEFA must be a more progressive thinking organisation these days, but then this happens just a few months ago.
Porto supporters subject Mario Balotelli to monkey noises and for that they are fined £16,700 (it is also worth pointing out that the fine itself took six weeks to process) but then a few weeks later Manchester City are late for the second half against Lisbon and received a punishment of £24,300.
Fast forward, then, to the Euro’s where UEFA have swelled their coffers with plenty of money. Russia has been hit with nearly £130,000 worth for two separate incidents and then there was Bendtner.
Whatever the merits of the decisions that UEFA made, it does seem that whilst they like to claim a tough stance on racism the facts do not necessarily back that up.
Just look again at the two incidents involving Manchester City. It seems that in the minds of UEFA a far worse crime to turn up late for a match than it is to make monkey noises in the stands.
And let’s not mince our words here, the only reason they have come down so hard on Bendtner is because of money. Sponsors pay a lot of money to be “official partners” of a major tournament and for this they get to call the shots.
That is, perhaps up to a point, fair enough. But then you buy a ticket for the event and realise how stupid it gets.
A few years ago, a cricket tournament called the ICC Champions Trophy took place in England, and when tickets were purchased they arrived with a letter that said what you could and couldn’t wear and eat on the day.
You could wear Nike clothing, but not Adidas. You could drink Pepsi (they were a sponsor) but you couldn’t drink coke. You could eat Walkers Crisps, but no other brand was allowed and so the list went on. Bags, said the letter, would be searched to make sure no “rogue” brands got in – and just in case you wanted to chance it and thought they were lying, belongings were duly searched on entry and the “wrong” foodstuff was quickly confiscated.
Viewed in this context it is perhaps easier to see why UEFA fined Bendtner so heavily. Paddy Power (for it was their name on his shorts) aren’t an official sponsor of Euro 2012 and had clearly paid Bendtner to display their name when he scored and thereby take their unauthorised spot on screen.
In an age where money talks and sponsorship becomes ever more important then it is small wonder that UEFA got their knickers in a twist, as it were. But it also shows that, for all their fine words, UEFA views cold hard cash as being much more important than racial abuse.