Women’s World Cup: Due to the business ban, lionesses are at risk of breaking their contracts

In the run-up to this summer’s Women’s World Cup, new measures have been put in place that limit the opportunities for individual sponsorship of England players – a move that could mean some of the Lionesses risk breaking deals they have signed with commercial partners, before these latest guidelines were published.

Sarina Wiegman and her team will fly to Australia’s Sunshine Coast on July 5th to prepare for the tournament which begins on July 20th. But the ban on players’ commercial activities will come into effect well before their first game in Haiti on July 22.

Beginning June 17, players will no longer be permitted to make physical appearances such as photoshoots for sponsors, and beginning July 5 – two weeks before the start of the tournament – ​​players will no longer be permitted to interact on social media to promote their sponsors. During this period, only official World Cup and FA sponsors may be promoted.

In short, the FA have said players will not be allowed to participate in any personal sponsorship activities during England camp.

The England technical team put these regulations in place to ensure players have a break before leaving for Australia on the weekends and on their days off when they are not at training camp. The same rules apply to any player activation at English partners, unless approval is given for a team-managed post.

Players and agents were not consulted prior to the rules’ release earlier this month, potentially leaving them vulnerable to contract issues. For example, a player may already have committed to a certain number of personal appearances and social media posts from a brand.

The policies may also affect players’ earning potential. Athletes need to seize commercial opportunities at big moments, especially given their relatively short careers. The issue is particularly relevant now that new sponsors are lining up to get involved in women’s football and commercial sponsorship is a huge engine for the sport.

To ensure maximum engagement, activations are planned around the World Cup. However, when players are unable to interact with the brand they are promoting, the value of the partnership decreases and the player’s financial offering decreases. Third parties who have existing contracts with players could also potentially take legal action against them for failure to fulfill their obligations.

The English Football Association is not the only one to have taken such action. Other federations have also issued commercial guidance – Australia’s guidance comes into effect even earlier in June, for example – and the commercial ban, known as Rule 40, has been in place for Team GB athletes well in advance of the Olympics.

England imposed a similar commercial ban for the European Women’s Championship on home soil last year, which Wiegman’s team won. A source, who spoke anonymously to protect her position, said “friendly talks” were ongoing but the issue had become even more relevant 12 months after the Lionesses’ triumph as the growth of women’s football has since led to more sponsorship deals for individuals led players.

As for the World Cup itself, third-party brands – with the exception of kit manufacturers like Nike for England – are not allowed in FIFA-controlled territories, which is common for major tournaments. This includes the area to and from the team bus, the interior of the stadium – dugout, warm-up area, media area, the pitch itself – and the team’s training base.

Players are not allowed to wear designer items in the team hotel and will be provided with England or Nike branded clothing, hats, backpacks and toiletry bags for use. Any logos on headphones, laptops, phones, toiletry bags, performance related socks, energy drinks, protein shakes or gels must be covered with England branded stickers. Trading partners from England – for example EE, Lucozade and XBOX – are only allowed in England-exclusive areas such as the gym or the relaxation area.

National teams can be fined by FIFA for breaking media and marketing rules.

For example, during the 2018 Men’s World Cup, England were fined 70,000 Swiss francs (just over £53,000, $66,000) by the game’s international governing body after several members of the team were previously spotted wearing Trusox Performance socks, an unauthorized trademark, wore in the quarter-final win over Sweden.

The FA was asked to comment.

(Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)


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