Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Humiliation of Les Bleus: Soccer, Scandal, and Sponsorship

by: Katie Pelo
The World Cup took place in South Africa, June 11 – July 11, 2010. Going into the World Cup, the French National team was already facing much controversy and scandal. On the field, they qualified against Ireland as a result of Thierry Henry’s handball setting up the winning goal. Off the field, less than two months before the start of the World Cup, three players were involved in a sex scandal involving underage prostitutes. Once they got to South Africa, the trouble really started. They stayed away from the media at the beginning, which is unusual for such a high profile team. At practice before their first game, Florent Malouda had to be held back from attacking his coach by team captain Patrice Evra. They then tied their first game 0-0 against Uruguay, and lost their next game 0-2 against Mexico. At halftime of the Mexico game, Coach Raymond Domenech and striker Nicolas Anelka got into an argument and Anelka yelled at his coach, “Go f*** yourself, you dirty son of a b***h.”

A “traitor” somehow leaked this statement to the media, as Evra said, and newspaper L’Equipe reported it on the front page the next day. Nicolas Anelka refused to publicly apologize and was sent home. At practice, Evra accuses team trainer, Duverne, of leaking the story and Duverne has to be restrained by the coach. The team then walks off the field and writes a statement for Domenech to read to the press. In summary, the statement says that they are not going to practice that day in protest of how Nicolas Anelka was treated. They also say that although they regret what happened, they regret even more that it was leaked to the press. After the statement is released, managing director Jean-Louis Valentin publicly resigned, calling the previous events “a scandal for the French people.” ( Les Bleus then went on to lose their last game 2-1 against South Africa, and directly after the game, Thierry Henry flew back to Paris to have a meeting with President Sarcozy about everything that had happened.

The French media was relentless in their criticism of Les Bleus, and dubbed the scandal “The Ultimate Humiliation” and “Journey to the Depths of Hell,” among other things. After this scandal, multiple sponsors stopped advertisements related to Les Bleus. Credit Agricole stopped their TV ad campaign with the team, fast food restaurant, Quick, stopped using ads showcasing Anelka, as did Pringles.

Credit Agricole suspended commercial:

In conclusion, without the media’s involvement, what happened in South Africa would not have been the scandal that we now know today. The French team did have a lot of problems, but if L’Equipe hadn’t reported what happened in the locker room, Anelka probably wouldn’t have been sent home and the events following probably wouldn’t have happened. The media partially created the scandal, and then they amplified it and heavily criticized everything that happened. This then caused the sponsors to react and withdraw or stop advertising campaigns related to the team and it’s players.

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