Paddy Power hope Tonga will get rub of the green

TongaThere’s no company more opportunistic than Paddy Power. Remember when they sponsored English non-league Burton Albion for one game: the FA Cup replay against Manchester United? Or how they get in trouble with advertising watchdog every 6 months? The Last Supper poster was a particular favourite of Waffler.

The bookies has really taken the biscuit this time though, and they look like they may get in trouble with the IRB. Why? Dyed green hair! That’s why.

Tonga play England tomorrow night for a place in the quarter-finals and a meeting with Australia, and as an appreciation of the financial help they’ve received from the aforementioned Irish bookmaker, every member of the squad will have a brand new green hairstyle. The Guardian reports today that the players and their sponsors are so serious about this that a hairdresser, Dermot Hickie, has been flown out of Ireland and to the Tongan team HQ near Montpellier. Each squad member will receive a different shade of bright green for the occasion. Chances are, it may just blind Jonny Wilkinson enough to work.

Waffler is impressed with a large organisation throwing money at some people who really appreciate it. Burton Albion pretty much finished their new ground with the money they received from sponsorship deals for the Manchester United visit. And while the England rugby team lap it up in Versailles (a hotel, not the actual palace), the Tongans stay at the French equivalent of a Travelodge for less than €70 per night. What Paddy Power helped with was their preparations. Thanks to a reported “five-figure sum” from the bookmakers, the players were able to train in New Zealand and England before shacking up in France. And if the last game against South Africa is anything to go by, they could perhaps pull of the biggest shock on Friday night. (6/1 with Paddy Power, in case you’re asking)

But this wouldn’t be Paddy Power without some sort of madness to kick the whole thing off. Step forward former Sale and Newcastle player Epeli Taione. Taione is a nice, charitable sort of guy, and quickly realised that his national team’s preparations would be in disarray if they didn’t get some cash quickly. Now in this sort of situation you’d think ‘bed push’ or ‘casual workday’ or a marathon. But Taione went a step further by getting sponsorship from the bookmakers to change his name by deed poll to, yep you guessed it, Paddy Power. Genius!

Unfortunately, the IRB who govern the World Cup, don’t take to kindly to a player changing their name to a sponsor. And so, despite the fact that Epeli Taione is actually Paddy Power, the match programmes and the RWC website refuse to acknowledge the Tongan’s new name. So it was up to the players to find a new way to thank the bookies. Hence the green hair.

“It’s just a laugh and we hope people don’t take it too seriously. It’s just a luck-of-the-Irish thing,” said a Paddy Power representative. Damn, so that’s where all our luck went….

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~ by waffler on September 27, 2007.

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