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British Premier League club Newcastle United may be facing a difficult situation with four of its star players. The club recently signed a sponsorship deal with the pay-day loan company Wonga. Under this deal, the Wonga logo will appear front and center on the Newcastle kits (jerseys). The problem is that Newcastle players Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Cheick Tiote are all practicing Muslims, and Sharia law prohibits benefitting from lending or receiving money, which means that interest is not allowed. There are reports that Ba, Cisse, Ben Arfa, and Tiote might refuse to wear the newly adorned shirts, which obviously puts the club in an awkward position.
On the one hand, Newcastle must honor its contract with Wonga. On the other, it would be unwise to upset a group of four players that have contributed 12 of Newcastle’s 13 goals so far this season. That being said, kit sponsorships are often some of the most lucrative deals for European football clubs. Unlike in most American sports leagues where jerseys contain only team logos and colors, European football clubs typically sell the “advertising space” on their jerseys to the highest bidder. Newcastle is now in a position where it has made a deal with a controversial company and could face repercussions on the soccer pitch from unhappy players.
This would not be the first time that a footballer has voiced complaint about a kit sponsorship. In Spain, former Seville striker Frederic Kanoute requested not to wear that club’s 888.com emblazoned shirt. In that case, the club allowed him to wear a jersey that was blank where the advertisement normally goes.
Should Newcastle consider doing that for these four players? How will Wonga react to the best players on the Newcastle team refusing to wear the logo? Is this type of advertising even appropriate in sports? Should players have a say in what advertising logos appear on their chests?
–Tracy R. Hancock
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