Organizers of minidress publicity stunt appear in court after FIFA sees red

By Calvin Palmer

The two Dutch women behind the orange minidress publicity stunt at the World Cup game between Holland and Denmark on Monday appeared in a South African court today.

A Dutch brewery sent 36 women, the other women were South African, to the game at Soccer City dressed in figure-hugging minidresses bearing a small logo. The dresses are on sale with packs of Bavaria beer in the Netherlands.

But while the girls wore orange, FIFA officials saw red.

FIFA claims the women were part of an “ambush marketing” campaign and detained the two Dutch women, questioning them for hours.

Football’s ruling body said it has no plans to charge the South African girls but filed charges against the two Dutch women who organized the stunt.

Budweiser, an official sponsor, is the only beer company allowed to advertise within the stadiums. FIFA fiercely protects its marketing interests, a source of immense revenue for football’s ruling body.

The Dutch women were freed by the court on 10,000-rand ($1,300) bail and required to surrender their passports.

In a statement, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen condemned FIFA’s handling of the incident, saying it was a “disproportional reaction”.

“It is absurd that the two women have a jail term hanging over their heads for wearing orange dresses in a football stadium,” Verhagen added.

“If South Africa or FIFA wants to take a company to task for an illegal marketing action, they should start judicial procedures against the company and not against ordinary citizens walking around in orange dresses.”

The Dutch embassy in Pretoria has questioned South African authorities about the charge.

A World Cup pundit for one of Britain’s TV stations, Robbie Earle, was fired from his job over accusations that he had provided tickets for the girls.

“Immediate investigations indicated that a block of ITV tickets would appear to have been used for unauthorised purposes during the Holland v Denmark match,” ITV said in a statement.

“Further inquiries have revealed that a substantial number of tickets allocated to Robbie Earle for family and friends have been passed to a third party in breach of FIFA rules.

“As a result, Robbie Earle’s contract with ITV has been terminated with immediate effect.”

Earle defended his actions.

“Call me naive but I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” said the former Jamaican international.

“I have absolutely no connection with any marketing ambush agency and have not profited in any way from these tickets,” he said. “I hope when people hear the full story they will see me in a different light.”

It is not clear whether 45-year-old Earle will face any legal action for redistributing the tickets.

[Based on reports by AFP and The Daily Telegraph.]

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