Liverpool Football Club is being sued for more than £1 million in commission the club is said to owe in relation to a £15 million deal with a bookmaker to sponsor its training kit.
Sports sponsorship firm Winlink claims the current Premier League leaders owe £1.125 million because one of its senior executives introduced club officials to their contacts at BetVictor in 2013.
Winlink says it was “heavily engaged over a number of years in securing a successful introduction… and in assisting to bring about a sponsorship deal”, which led to a £5-million-a year deal for three seasons between 2016/17 to 2018/19.
But Liverpool say their head of global partnership sales, Rafaella Valentino, “personally negotiated the deal with BetVictor’s CEO, her friend Andreas Meinrad”, shortly after she joined the club in late 2015, and that Winlink’s introduction was not the cause of the deal.
At a remote High Court trial starting on Monday, Winlink’s barrister Andrew Sutcliffe QC said Winlink “spent significant time and effort in building the relationship between Liverpool and BetVictor”.
He said Winlink and its sister company Bettor, which “specialise in identifying and introducing betting companies to sports rights holders”, had previously earned commissions for introducing bookmakers to numerous football clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Juventus.
Mr Sutcliffe told the court that Winlink “accepted that it played no role in the negotiation of the 2016 agreement itself”, but was “simply providing an introduction service”.
He argued that there were “only two conditions” Winlink needed to meet to earn its commission – that it introduced Liverpool to “senior decision makers at BetVictor” and that the bookmaker then sponsored the club – both of which he said had been met.
But Mr Sutcliffe said “Liverpool has not kept its side of the bargain”.
Robert Anderson QC, for Liverpool, argued that Winlink’s introductions “had nothing to do with the execution of the £15 million training kit deal”.
He said that Winlink is not entitled to commission “because the introductions were made two-and-a-half years before the 2016 deal”.
Mr Anderson added that the club’s agreement with Winlink did not give it “the unlimited right to commission on every deal that Liverpool ever does with BetVictor … regardless of their involvement in it”.
The trial before Judge Mark Pelling QC is due to last five days and it is expected that the judge will reserve his judgment to a later date.
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