Liverpool FC Wins Training Uniform Sponsorship Lawsuit

  • Winlink sued Liverpool, claiming it was owed money for uniting club with BetVictor
  • Liverpool argued that its and BetVictor’s execs had a pre-existing relationship
  • The judge ruled that the prior relationship was the reason for the deal
  • MP Carolyn Harris wants to ban gambling sponsorships of soccer uniforms
Liverpool FC crest
A High Court judge has ruled in favor of Liverpool FC in a lawsuit brought by Winlink over the soccer club’s training shirt sponsorship deal with BetVictor. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Winlink wanted money for brokering deal

On Monday, Liverpool Football Club emerged victorious in a £1.125m ($1.61m) lawsuit surrounding a £15m ($19.3m) training uniform sponsorship deal with BetVictor inked in 2016. High Court Judge Mark Pelling QC ruled in favor of Liverpool FC, saying that both the club and the betting company “owed nothing” to sports sponsorship firm Winlink, the plaintiff in the suit.

owed its genesis to the long-standing commercial relationship”

Judge Pelling added that “the transaction was one that owed its genesis to the long-standing commercial relationship” between Liverpool’s then-head of global partnership sales Raffaella Valentino and BetVictor CEO Andreas Meinrad. “The bargain on offer in 2016 was of a completely different order of magnitude from the transactions being contemplated in 2014 and 2015 and, further, was qualitatively different as well,” he explained.

Winlink claimed that Liverpool owed it £1.125m for setting up an introduction with its contacts at BetVictor in 2013 as well as helping build the relationship between the two organizations. They eventually signed a three-year deal at £5m ($6.4m) per year for the 2016-17, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 seasons.

Liverpool, BetVictor execs had previous relationship

In its defense, Liverpool said that Valentino “personally negotiated” the uniform sponsorship deal with Meinrad, a friend, after she joined the club in 2015. The judge noted that Valentino had sent Meinrad “plainly commercially confidential” information about a different arrangement, that with Marathonbet. This information, said Judge Pelling, could only have come from Liverpool higher-ups, implying that this was above and beyond what Winlink could have done.

Essentially, the bulk of Liverpool’s defense was that Valentino had way too many industry contacts and far too many communications around the time the deal was made for the sponsorship agreement to have been dependent on Winlink.

The judgment quoted another e-mail sent by Valentino to her Liverpool colleagues after she got BetVictor on board. “BetVictor want to leave CFC (Chelsea) and partner with us,” she wrote, “Asia and Jurgen (Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp) are big factors in switching.”

UK politician wants gambling shirt sponsor ban

It is entirely possible that gambling sponsorship deals could cease to exist at some point in the United Kingdom. In July, Member of Parliament Carolyn Harris said that including a ban on gambling sponsorships of soccer uniforms was an obvious step that should be taken in an upcoming revision of the UK Gambling Act.

help to normalize gambling among young people”

Harris, the chair of the gambling-related-harm all-party parliamentary group, tweeted: “Gambling logos on football shirts help to normalize gambling among young people.” She added that she understands how important such sponsorships are to the soccer clubs, but maintained that gambling company logos should not be emblazoned upon shirts.

About half of the English Premier League clubs have betting companies as their shirt sponsors. With the pandemic-related sports shutdown hurting clubs’ finances, the clubs argue that such sponsorships are even more important right now. Harris agreed that the government needed to help the soccer clubs, but said soccer is “family environment and therefore the sponsorship needs to come from a family organization.”