It's no coke, says ejected World Cup fan

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2003, 3:59 [IST]
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Johannesburg: A South African businessman has accused World Cup organisers of assault after claiming he was thrown out of Saturday's match between Australia and India at Centurion - for drinking a can of Coca-Cola. Arthur Williamson claimed on Monday that his removal from the ground by security officials was a sign of the lengths that the tournament will go to prevent 'ambush marketing.'

"It is unacceptable that law-abiding citizens be brow-beaten, publicly humiliated, assaulted and summarily ejected for doing nothing worse than quietly drinking a beverage that is not approved of by the official sponsors," Williamson told the SAPA news agency. The World Cup organising committee, in an effort to protect the interests of official sponsors that include Pepsi, has placed arch-rivals Coca Cola on the list of items that are banned at all World Cup matches. Branded clothing, hats and bags are also banned.

Williamson, who attended the match with his wife and 13-year-old son, said that he was "totally flabbergasted" when he was approached by security staff who insisted that they hand over the offending drinks - including those in his cooler bag. "Within minutes of opening our cans we were accosted by security officials and told to stop drinking. They also demanded that we surrender any remaining unopened Cokes in our possession," said Williamson. "We suggested that we be allowed to finish our drinks and volunteered not to take out the remaining cans.

We even suggested that our unopened Cokes be replaced by Pepsis, but this offer was ignored. "Security personnel repeatedly demanded that we surrender our unopened cans or face eviction from the stadium." Williamson said that he refused to hand over the three unopened cans. Rodney Hartman, the World Cup head of communications, said that the organisers had gone to great lengths to explain to the public the measures taken to protect the interests of official sponsors.

"We've done our level best to inform the public about this because we don't want anybody to be involved with issue with security personnel," he said. Organisers are careful about ambush marketing after the International Cricket Council (ICC) signed a seven-year deal worth $ 550 million with official sponsors. The ICC last week warned Indian cricketers to ensure their personal sponsors, who conflicted with the official ones, stop advertisements in the Indian media.


AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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