When Russian fans unfurled a neo-Nazi banner during their team’s 3-0 loss to Uruguay at the 2018 World Cup, FIFA hit the country’s soccer federation with a $10,100 fine.
When three England soccer players wore unapproved Trusox ankle socks over a portion of their official Nike-branded kits in Saturday’s 2-0 quarterfinal win over Sweden, FIFA fined the English as well. For a much steeper price of $70,700.
England were officially punished for “breaching media and marketing regulations and the FIFA equipment regulations” after Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, and Eric Dier wore non-approved, branded support socks in the knockout round victory.
FIFA had previously requested the Football Association to cease the activity that led to the sanction. In particular, several members of the English national team continued to display unauthorised commercial branding on playing equipment items before and during the quarterfinal match between Sweden and England.
The oft-criticized association has done work at the World Cup to remind fans its top priority is branding. England’s violation was FIFA’s third $70K fine of the knockout stage — it had previously slapped penalties on Sweden for a sock violation of their own and Croatia for drinking “non-authorized beverage products,” (read: not officially branded, Coca-Cola produced drinks) during their Round of 16 match against Denmark.
FIFA even went a step further to showcase its lack of compassion when it gave Croatian goalkeeper Daniel Subasic a formal warning for wearing a T-shirt under his kit in the same game commemorating a former teammate who had died in 2008. The governing body ruled he had violated its uniform regulations for the “display of a personal message” when he lifted his jersey after Croatia’s victory.
Croatia also endured a $70,700 fine for endorsing a non-Budweiser beer in the run-up to the tournament.
Finally, something at the World Cup that feels uniquely American
Fining players for adding individual touches to their uniforms or drinking out of the wrong cups is finally giving an American presence to a tournament for which USA Soccer failed to qualify. The NFL penalizes players $6,076 for a first-time offender of its uniform/equipment rules and $12,154 for a subsequent violation. MLB threatened to fine Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist for having the gall to wear plain black cleats instead of his league-approved ones.
That draconian rule extends to beverages as well. Teams, coaches, and even reporters at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament can only drink out of officially branded cups.
Excited to help the @SpokesmanSports #Gonzaga coverage team in Boise this week. More importantly, I'm excited to enjoy my coffee & soft drinks exclusively out of cups with NCAA branding. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/AGqNRE7cW3— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) March 12, 2018
FIFA’s control is a nod to the big money sponsors who help make the event a massive earner. It’s also tremendous overkill that prioritizes companies over people, sending the message that banners promoting hate are less troublesome than off-brand ankle socks. That’s a balance American sports leagues have struggled with for years.