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Shalveen Chand
Friday, February 07, 2014

THE High Court in Suva has denied a request by Digicel for an urgent injunction to stop the Fiji sevens team from wearing jerseys that display the logo of other sponsors.

The decision comes hours after the defendant in the case — the Fiji Rugby Union — announced its $40million deal with Vodafone and a consortium of companies.

The matter was filed by Digicel against FRU on January 31 after contractual matters between the two fell through with a consortium of companies led by Vodafone signing the deal.

It was listed for hearing today but a request by Digicel's lawyers had the matter brought forward.

Digicel lawyer Mary Muir told the court they wanted the sevens team to appear in plain white jerseys as it did in Las Vegas.

Justice Kamal Kumar questioned Ms Muir, saying "the horse bolted" referring to the sealed sponsorship deal between FRU and Vodafone.

Ms Muir agreed but insisted that an interim order could stop the team from displaying the new sponsors' logo.

Justice Kumar said the contract had been signed and the court could not do anything to reverse this.

Ms Muir said as part of Digicel's contract with FRU, it had the right to match the offer, which it did.

Ms Muir said despite this, FRU went ahead and signed with Vodafone and other sponsors.

Justice Kumar said this was then a case of breach of contract for which costs could be claimed by Digicel.

But Ms Muir said costs would not be an adequate remedy.

Justice Kumar said the case was not unique as sponsors changed every time. She said a similar matter was before English courts where a football player signed to wear only Nike boots with contractual clauses but went on and signed a new contract with Puma.

The court asked Ms Muir to explain what Digicel lost as not being the sponsors.

She said for Digicel, it was much more than financial gain as the company wanted to be part of sports in Fiji.

Justice Kumar added that if there was no monetary loss to Digicel, then the company wasn't being prejudiced.

Ms Muir said she could not give a figure on the monetary loss but concurred with Justice Kumar that there was a financial gain and that it was a marketing strategy.

Representing FRU, Nilesh Lajendra told the court the contract had been signed and nothing could be done to revert it. He said the status quo was that a sponsor was now on board.

Justice Kumar said if that was the situation, an innocent third party was now in the picture and the court had to protect their rights as well.

Ms Muir said FRU should not be allowed to benefit from its wrongdoings.

But Justice Kumar said he could not give an interim order to stop the sevens team from wearing jerseys with Vodafone logos on them.

He added that he would have to hear the matter properly.

Digicel's lawyers have until this afternoon to file the necessary amendments while FRU has been given until midday Tuesday to file a response.

Further response by Digicel has to be filed by next Wednesday afternoon. The hearing will take place next Thursday.








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