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Kevin Smith

Real Madrid Targets Online Betting Operations

25 February 2005

Officials at one of the world's most well-know football clubs -- Real Madrid -- said on Friday they were joining forces with five of their international stars in a legal battle aimed at seven online betting firms.

The club, and its players, say the sites used the Real Madrid logo and name along with photos and illustrations of the players, without approval or compensation.

Although no specifics were given regarding the course of action (Spanish courts, EU, ect.) the club said it would lead the action and be joined by five of its star players: Raul, Figo (Portugal); Ronaldo (Brazil); Zinedine Zidane (France); and England captain David Beckham.

The club said it is targeted seven leading sites and companies to start with. Hilton Group Plc (Ladbrokes); Sporting Exchange Ltd. (Betfair); BAW International Ltd. (Betandwin); Ltd (MrBookmaker); Villa La Palma; William Hill Organization Ltd; and Victor Chandler were all named in a statement by the club on Friday.

"The club decided to initiate a series of legal actions in defense of the image of the club," said lawyer Jean Louis Dupont.

Carlos Martinez de Albornoz, corporate director general for Real Madrid, said the action could involve separate court cases in Germany, Belgium and France but the interested parties would determine that at a later date.

Mark Davies, a managing director for Betfair, confirmed that his company received a letter from the club and would respond to it in due time. Martinez de Albornoz said the club is looking for compensation and for Internet-based operators to be more accountable for their actions.

"The Internet has to respect the law and the rights of everyone, in this case Real Madrid," he said. "The aim of this is to obtain an end, and also compensation, for the damage these societies have caused to Real Madrid and the five players, by their use of our name and image without permission.

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

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

In a statement released at the press conference Real Madrid said many countries have legislation in place that "rigorously protects the rights to the name and image of people and companies."

One industry insider speculated on Friday that while on the surface Real Madrid may have some legitimate claims they could be fighting a losing battle. The operator, who spoke to IGN on the condition of anonymity, said that the operators weren't using the names of the players or the images of the club for "commercial" reasons.

"It is my understanding that the images and the names were simply posted on the site along with the betting lines or proposition bets," he said. "They weren't used as part of advertisements or endorsements of the site in any way and that seems like a stretch."

Late last year the European Court of Justice ruled that basic "database" information such as starting lineups for a race and jockey information, that can easily be obtained through newspapers and other information outlets, wasn't protected under database use law.

A similar correlation could be made for the images and information the online operators were using from Real Madrid.

"It isn't exactly the same but it is similar," he said. "If they obtained the information in a legal way, meaning from someone who was authorized to distribute it, then I don't think Real has a leg to stand on frankly."

In its statement the team said its main goal is to "obtain the cessation and redress of the harm caused by these companies to Real Madrid and the aforementioned players by the unauthorized use of their names and images as well as the cessation of the use of any symbol or reference that can identify them."

Real Madrid Targets Online Betting Operations is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith