England manager Gareth Southgate has defended the right of sponsors to advertise their products at Euro 2020 after Cristiano Ronaldo sparked a row by removing a bottle from a news conference.
UEFA issued a statement on Thursday reminding teams of their contractual obligations after Ronaldo moved Coca-Cola bottles out of shot as he sat down for a pre-match news conference ahead of Portugal’s 3-0 win over Hungary in Budapest on Monday. Ronaldo then held up another bottle and said “water” in Portuguese.
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France midfielder Paul Pogba, who is a Muslim, followed a similar path a day later by removing a Heineken alcohol-free beer bottle from in front of him after France beat Germany 1-0. Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli did the same with two Coca-Cola bottles as he engaged with journalists following Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Switzerland.
Cristiano Ronaldo pushes to Coca Cola bottles away in favor of water after sitting down for his news conference.
Southgate and squad captain Harry Kane sat with the same branded bottles in front of them as they spoke on Thursday evening ahead of England’s Group D match against Scotland.
Southgate said: “I think there are lots of sponsors in sport and the impact of their money at all levels helps sport to function, particularly grassroots sport in our country requires a lot of investment and without some of those companies investing, it is very difficult to provide the facilities we need.
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“With anything, of course, we are mindful in our country of obesity and health but everything can be done in moderation. Anything you take part in or partake in moderation is rarely a problem. I understand the concerns that people have and two guys had different rationale for the stances they took but there’s always a bigger picture to these things.”
Asked for his view on the situation, Kane added: “I totally agree. The sponsors are entitled to have what they want if they have paid the money to do so.
“It is not something personally I’ve thought too much about. Obviously I’ve seen it go around on social media but if I’m totally honest I’m more focused on tomorrow than anything like that.”
Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov has a different take on Coca-Cola than Cristiano Ronaldo.
The company responded to Ronaldo’s actions in a statement in which they said “everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” with different “tastes and needs.”
And while Ronaldo and Pogba were busy removing the bottles from their sights, Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez took a more playful approach toward sponsors’ products.
“Can I do something? I saw Ronaldo doing this,” goal scorer Yarmolenko said laughing after his team’s 2-1 win over North Macedonia, re-arranging bottles at his news conference. “I want to move the [Coca-Cola bottles] here and I want to move the beer here. Coke and Heineken, please get in touch.”
Martinez finished his news conference after his side’s 2-1 win over Denmark by picking up a bottle of Coke Zero and giving a light-hearted endorsement: “Red Devils love Coca-Cola.”