Liverpool FC win High Court case over £15m sponsorship deal

Liverpool Football Club has won a High Court case worth more than £1 million that was said to be owed in relation to a £15 million sponsorship deal with a leading bookmaker.

Sports sponsorship firm Winlink claimed the current Premier League champions owed £1.125 million because one of their senior executives introduced club officials to their contacts at BetVictor in 2013.

Winlink argued that its introduction was "an effective cause" of a £5-million-a-year deal, signed in 2016, for BetVictor to sponsor Liverpool's training kit between 2016/17 and 2018/19.

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But Liverpool said their then head of global partnership sales Raffaella Valentino "personally negotiated the deal with BetVictor's CEO, her friend Andreas Meinrad", shortly after she joined the club in late 2015.

Giving judgement remotely on Monday, Judge Mark Pelling QC dismissed Winlink's claim, ruling that the deal between Liverpool and BetVictor "owed nothing" to Winlink's introduction.

The judge found that "the transaction was one that owed its genesis to the long-standing commercial relationship between Ms Valentino and Mr Meinrad".

He added: "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.

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"This was a principal global sponsorship arrangement that involved not advertising for a short period of time each match on LED hoardings, but a full spread of exposure on the training kit – but also elsewhere on pretty much everything generated by LFC other than the first team shirt."

In the ruling, Judge Pelling noted that Ms Valentino had sent Mr Meinrad "plainly commercially confidential" information about Liverpool's deal with its then sponsor Marathonbet, which the judge said "could only have come from senior officials within Liverpool FC".

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In a previous email to Mr Meinrad, Ms Valentino described the offer by Liverpool to BetVictor as being "an incredible package", adding: "You get to virtually own Liverpool Football Club."

The judgement also quoted from an email sent by Ms Valentino – who was previously involved in a separate sponsorship deal between BetVictor and Chelsea FC – to senior Liverpool staff after BetVictor had agreed to sponsor the club.

The email said that "BetVictor want to leave CFC (Chelsea) and partner with us", and that "Asia and Jurgen (Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp) are big factors in switching".

It also revealed Ms Valentino's concerns about Christian Purslow – Chelsea's then managing director, who previously held the same role at Liverpool – "suing or something" over the deal.

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She said: "I don't know why but I am paranoid about CP and consequences as he's a bad loser."

At a trial in June, Winlink's barrister, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, said Winlink "spent significant time and effort in building the relationship between Liverpool and BetVictor", and argued that "Liverpool has not kept its side of the bargain".

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But 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 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".

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