Saturday, February 26, 2005

Real Madrid stars set to sue Internet Gaming Companies

Gibraltar firms included in list

Top Spanish soccer club Real Madrid said on Friday it and several of its top players are taking legal action against online betting firms over what it alleges is unauthorised use of its name and players’ images.

Star players Ronaldo, David Beckham, Raul, Zinedine Zidane and Figo are joining the club in the legal action, Real Madrid said in a statement.

They are taking action against British-based Ladbrokes, William Hill, Sportingbet PLC and Sporting Exchange Ltd as well as BAW International Ltd of Gibraltar and Malta-based Mr Bookmaker.com.

Unspecified legal steps had already been launched in France, Belgium and Germany against these companies, it said. The club wants the companies to stop using the images and to “repair the harm caused”.

In recent years, we have seen spectacular growth of sports betting activities organised by companies that operate on the Internet, the club’s statement said.

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said the group sourced the images on its website from a reputable supplier who they believed had authorisation.

What they are saying is not very clear, but we’ll watch with interest and defend our position robustly. We have no plans to change the way we take bets.

Real Madrid alleged that the companies used the name of Real Madrid and the majority of its players without authorisation and that they often used photographs and drawings of these footballers wearing the kit and badge of Real Madrid.

In most countries, legislation rigorously protects the rights to the name and image of people and companies, it said.

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