Reference:  EWHC (Ch)
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Patten J
Date of judgment: 9 Aug 2007
Summary: Sports law - Contract - Professional football player's contract to use claimant's products - Option to extend contract - Exercise of option - Player wishing to enter into contract with third party
R, a professional football player with London club Arsenal, entered into a contract with Nike under which he agreed to wear only Nike products. The contract, made in the Netherlands under Dutch law, was for an initial two-year term with Nike having the option to extend it for a further two years.
After the period for Nike extending the contract had expired, R entered into a contract with another sportswear manufacturer, Puma, under which he was obliged to wear their football boots, which he did in some pre-season games. Nike claimed that it had exercised the option by writing to both R and to his agent. R claimed that he had not received notice until after the relevant period had expired.
Nike brought an action for breach of contract in the Netherlands and applied for an interim injunction in England to stop R wearing Puma’s boots rather than their own.
Whether Nike were entitled to an interim injunction preventing R from wearing other manufacturers’ football boots.
Allowing the application and granting the injunction:
Damages were not an appropriate remedy for either party. The marketing value to Nike of having R wear its boots could not be assessed, while the allegation of breach of contract affected R’s reputation, damage to which was also not best compensated in monetary terms. However, Nike had a sufficiently strong case to justify seeking relief and it was likely to suffer more damage than R if the status quo was not preserved until trial.
This simple contractual dispute highlights the fact that by entering into contracts sportspersons limit their choice of equipment and may thereby put themselves at a sporting disadvantage. It also led to the unusual spectacle of the player in question wearing blacked-out football boots for the opening games of the 2007-08 season!