December 19 – Coca-Cola has compounded the controversy of the Italian Super Cup to be played between Juventus and Lazio on December 22 in Saudi Arabia, by becoming the event’s title sponsor.
Serie A, which has demonstrated a dubious moral compass over its blundering around the issues of racism in Italy, has similarly attracted condemnation around its Super Cup – now to be called the Coca-Cola Supercup – which is in its second year of a three-year deal to play in Saudi Arabia.
The decision by one of football’s major global sponsors to lend its corporate support as title sponsor raises both moral and commercial questions around the integrity of Coke’s strategy
The Saudi Arabian regime has been universally criticised by the football world for its support of the pirate channel beoutQ and its broadcast piracy – including theft of Serie A matches – of international leagues and confederation championships.
The big loser in the piracy battle to date has been beIN Sport, which has seen its broadcasts pirated and rebroadcast to millions in Saudi Arabia. However beIN has now countered saying that it may pull out of the £390 million rights deal with Serie A, which it says is rewarding the Saudi pirates. beIN makes up more than 50% of Serie As international broadcast fees.
The Coca-Cola deal will go a small away to offsetting that loss and a longer way in sanitising the perception of the Saudis as an international sport host.
Even so, in supporting football in a country that denies women the opportunity of playing the game, the reputational damage for Coca-Cola globally could outweigh any local commercial gain in Saudi Arabia.
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