Women's World Cup: Canada stadiums scramble to scrub non-FIFA sponsors

At Women's World Cup, Canadian stadiums remove stickers to venue names to scrub mentions of non-FIFA sponsors

Ask anyone in southern Manitoba for directions to Winnipeg Stadium, and you'll likely get a blank stare in response.

That's because Winnipeg Stadium doesn't exist. The name is a creation of FIFA, world soccer's governing body and the overseer of the women's World Cup.

Officially, the 2-year-old stadium, home of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is known as Investors Group Field after the Winnipeg-based financial services company that paid for the naming rights to the taxpayer-funded stadium for 12 seasons.

But FIFA policy forbids commercial sponsorship of stadium names. And because Investors Group is not a FIFA sponsor, several huge marquees featuring the company's name and logo on the outside of the stadium have been covered by large rainbow-colored banners.

"Making sure we had proper branding in place was definitely an important piece in ensuring our stadium was ready," said Chad Falk, Winnipeg's venue general manager for the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015. "For example, we had to remove tens of thousands of branded cup-holder stickers that were attached to every seat."

Those were stickers for a local company called Pizza Hotline, also not a FIFA sponsor.

Ottawa's TD Place Stadium — which takes its name from the TD Bank Group — also ran afoul of FIFA's policy and will be going by its original name, Lansdowne Park, during the tournament. The other four World Cup stadiums BC Place in Vancouver, Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, Olympic Stadium in Montreal and tiny Moncton Stadium in Moncton — will retain their official names.

Cup a hit on TV

The U.S.' opening game with Australia on Monday drew 3.3 million viewers to Fox Sports1, more than three times as many as watched the team's group-play opener four years ago on ESPN. The game drew a 2.8 rating in Los Angeles.

And that wasn't even the largest national TV audience for the first round, according to FIFA. Defending champion Japan's win over Switzerland pulled 4.2 million people to Fuji TV's coverage.

In China, an audience of 2.3 million watched its team's loss to Canada on Saturday — a game three Canadian networks aired to 1.8 million viewers, a national TV record for a women's World Cup game.

England, France and the Netherlands also drew TV audiences of at least 1 million for their openers.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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