Euro 2020 has started off on a rapturous note with fans back in the stadium making every match a 100x better. The players have responded in style with goals, glamour, flair, and of course, panache all across the pitch. Only a week into the tournament and there has been excitement from all involved with Europe’s mega event.Although there has been a strange animosity building up between the players and certain drink sponsors evident in post and pre match press conferences.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) June 17, 2021
However, away from the football and the stadiums, there has developed a simmering undercurrent of tension for two sides. This involves certain players playing at the Euros and the corporate sponsors of the said competition. Now, tiffs between the two are not that uncommon in footballing life, but to have it at such a massive platform with the top players is certainly something that will not please the organisers one bit.
With so many nerve racking issues having already cropped up, including the extraordinary incident with Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and how that particular match was handled, a political spat regarding jerseys between Ukraine and Russia, and Austria’s Marko Arnautovic appearing to racially abuse following his goal which led to a one match ban for the striker- it has been a tough few days for UEFA. The last thing they would want is players messing around with their sponsorship deals in this manner, especially in light of this financially draining pandemic situation.
WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING
Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to start this “trend,” if one can call it before Portugal’s opening match against Hungary. The 36-year-old removed two bottles of Coca-Cola to the side from in front of him during a press conference. He then proceeded to urge the audience there to drink water by holding up a water bottle.
One small gesture by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly cost Coca-Cola $4B in market shares. On Monday, the soccer star sat down for a press conference ahead of Portugal's Euro match vs. Hungary, and moved two bottles of Coke away from his seat. pic.twitter.com/ZaHGKhgwoK
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 16, 2021
This immediately became an internet sensation and the market value of the beverage giants also fell by $4 billion overnight, though there does not seem to strong evidence to suggest that the two events were linked. Nevertheless, if people thought this was going to be a one off incident, they were sorely mistaken. After France’s 1-0 win over Germany, man-of-the-match Paul Pogba was attending to his press duties as per the norm. Pogba, a devout, practicing Muslim, moved aside the glass bottle of Heineken kept in front of his mic.
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) June 16, 2021
Though the company advertises its beer as non-alcoholic, clearly Pogba’s moving off the bottle showed just how religiously he took his faith. However, it seemed like Ronaldo’s antics had had some sort of effect on other players as well. Italian midfielder Manuel Locatelli, who scored a brace in the Azzurri’s 3-0 win over Switzerland last night, repeated the Portuguese skipper’s actions, by replacing the aerated drinks with water.
Italy's Manuel Locatelli is the latest footballer to remove branded drinks during a press conference. Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo started the trend by removing a cola bottle and was followed by France's Paul Pogba who removed the bottle of an alcoholic beverage company pic.twitter.com/oNR0R4Skkq
— TRT World (@trtworld) June 17, 2021
Most recently, Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko, fresh from netting his side’s victory against North Macedonia, did something extra with the bottles today. He switched the bottles of Coca-Cola and Heineken around, before moving them back to their original places. It is not clear if this is really some sort of protest against the sponsors by the players or just some friendly banter being done by all those involved, but UEFA were certainly not amused with all this.
Though the actions by the players garnered huge buzz on social media from fans and spectators around the globe, the official response was far from that. Euro 2020 director Martin Kallen stated that UEFA has reminded the teams and their media managers of the “contractual obligations” between the two parties in regards to sponsors for the tournament. UEFA also sought to bring to light the fact that revenue from the sponsorship deals goes a long way in financing tournaments and European football in general too.
Reacting to a bottle-snatching trend at the European Championship started by Cristiano Ronaldo, players on the 24 teams have been asked to stop removing strategically placed sponsor drinks from the news conference platforms.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) June 17, 2021
Indeed, Coca-Cola and Heineken are two of the biggest sponsors of UEFA and have been associated with any European continental event for many years now. As of now it is unclear whether the players individually or the team they represent will be facing any separate penalties of their own, though it has been threatened. If sanctions do come, it will not be a surprise to anyone. There have been several incidents in the past of players being fined for violating their agreements with the governing body.
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 17, 2021
Furthermore, this whole episode is something that UEFA could really do without right now, given how they have been battling on multiple fronts regarding one issue or another. With still a whole month left for the Euros, it remains to be seen if there is another addition to this chapter or will UEFA’s warning be enough to put everyone back in line once more.