One Greek Soccer Team Needed A Sponsor, And A Brothel Saved The Day

American sports fans know that sponsorship deals can occasionally veer into the realm of the unfortunate—Enron Field, anyone?—but enlisting the deep pockets of a brothel isn't something we'll likely see here any time soon. One amateur soccer team in Greece, though, had no other choice and needed to turn to the local, thriving business for a needed infusion of cash. That, in turn, came with some conditions.

The AP has more on this unique arrangement for soccer services rendered:

Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin.

Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese.

But the amateur Voukefalas club – whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender – has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice.

"Unfortunately, amateur football has been abandoned by almost everyone," said Yiannis Batziolas, the club's youthful chairman, who runs a travel agency and is the team's backup goalkeeper. "It's a question of survival."

Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans.

Mr. Batziolas acknowledges the sponsorship took his team by surprise. "They didn't believe it in the beginning," he said. "But when they saw the shirts printed, they thought it was funny."

The team isn't taking the jersey ban in stride, mostly because the deal has already commanded a significant investment on the part of the brothel owner, who just wants to be treated like any other willing sponsor.

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Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than $1,300 for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn't worry the 67-year-old Ms. Alevridou, who says she's only in it because she loves soccer.

"It's not the kind of business that needs promotion," she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. "It's a word-of-mouth kind of thing."

Her businesses, plushly decorated pastel-colored bungalows where 14 women are employed, have weathered the country's financial disaster far better than most, and she readily acknowledges her success.

"If we don't help our scientists and athletes, where will we be?" she asked. "Greece has educated people, cultured people and good athletes. It's better to help them than take our money to Switzerland."

Cash-strapped Greek soccer team turns to brothel for sponsorship [Globe and Mail]