Papiss Cisse has pulled out of Newcastle’s pre-season tour to Portugal after refusing to wear the club sponsor’s logo on religious grounds.
Cisse, a devout Muslim, claimed Wonga’s money-lending practices contravene Islamic teachings, which prohibit lending money at interest, and refused to wear any first-team shirt or training top bearing the company’s insignia. It is reported that Cisse, 28, made his opinions known to the club in June.
In an attempt to end the stalemate, Cisse did offer to wear a shirt bearing a charity logo, or one without any branding at all. However his offer has been declined by club owner Mike Ashley, who is determined to honour the agreement with Wonga.
It leaves Cisse’s future in doubt, with sources describing the relationship between the parties as “strained”.
Newcastle signed a £24 million deal with Wonga to replace Virgin Money as Newcastle’s sponsors last October.
The move provoked anger with some fans who were unhappy with the club being sponsored by a company which charges up to 5,853 per cent annual interest on short term loans.
Under the terms of Newcastle’s £24 Million sponsorship deal with Wonga, players are obliged to wear the company’s logo on their kit while travelling and during matches.
Papiss Cisse has been backed by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on his stance over the Wonga logo.
Speaking in June, PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes said: “We’re all aware that clubs need to generate revenue and sometimes have to use a wide range of companies. However, if someone feels very, very strongly that it’s not compatible with their beliefs, then some sort of solution should be found.”
The Newcastle forward and his representatives have been in talks with club officials and the PFA in recent days but neither the club nor their shirt sponsor have been able to find a solution.
A similar issue occurred at Sevilla in 2007 when forward Frederic Kanoute covered the logo of betting company 888.com, and the ex-Tottenham striker was handed a customised individual shirt without the company’s logo on it.
The Senegalese striker, who is estimated to earn in the region of £40,000 a week, trained on his own on his return from his summer break last week.
On Tuesday night manager Alan Pardew announced he was taking his full squad to Portugal, including Cisse as it was hoped the situation would be resolved before the players flew off for Portugal for a week’s intensive training.
But the striker was not on the flight which left Newcastle airport this afternoon and his absence has increased speculation that he could be forced to leave St James’s Park.
Cisse’s Newcastle team-mates Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko are also Muslim, but have told the club they have no issue with wearing the sponsor’s logo.
Cisse joined Newcastle in a £9 million deal from Freiburg in January last year and he was an immediate success in the coveted Newcastle No 9 shirt and has scored 26 times in all competitions.