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Entrepreneurs crippled by FIFA regulations

By Staff Writer
As the World Cup draws closer, frustrations of local entrepreneurs are escalating and some feel that FIFA will be the only people who will get anything from the World Cup.

FIFA told Grant Abrahamse, an aspiring entrepreneur who wanted to make key chains decorated with the South African flag, vuvuzela and the year 2010 on it was told by the organizing committee that he is infringing on copyright.

"FIFA is the only entity to benefit from the World Cup," Abrahamse said.

"This is David and Goliath. I am David, FIFA is Goliath," he said, as the country gears up for the June 11 kick-off.

Abrahamse revealed that he got given permission by the government back in 2004 but a year later he received a cease-and-desist letter from FIFA.

The governing body own the rights to the words "World Cup", "2010", "South Africa", and all combinations thereof.

"The association is dictatorial and prescriptive. They are only after it for money for themselves, and not for anybody else," said Abrahamse.

There have been 451 cases of ambush marketing opened to protect FIFA's official partners who have spent fortunes in order to secure exclusive rights to the brand.

Kulula were recently asked to withdraw its ad declare themselves "the unofficial national carrier of the you-know-what" in an advert with images of a stadium and a footballer. Emirates are the official FIFA partner.

The international governing body brushed off the dictator tag and claim that the majority of cases are settled in dialogue with the infringers.

"FIFA is much more lenient with (small businesses), always embarking on an educational and non-aggressive approach," it said.

However, FIFA have gone as far as to order a company to stop the production of lollipops with a World Cup theme, and forced a sports bar in Pretoria to pull down banners from its roof celebrating the tournament.

"A lollipop, really? Can they disturb the World Cup? The lollipop-maker is not going to take away the revenues of an official sponsor," said trademark attorney Andre van der Merwe.

"They are very aggressive. I think because of that, people are looking forward to the World Cup but they are not very found of FIFA," he said. "They think FIFA is taking over the country."

Aside from the marketing rules, the nine host cities have also had to adopt rules to regulate activity around the stadiums, the fan park viewing areas, and other official sites and constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos fears that South Africans could see only limited benefits from the World Cup.

"If the economic benefits are not as high as people had hoped, people will become more disillusioned with FIFA," he said.

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