Liverpool FC have won a legal battle over a multimillion-pound sponsorship deal with the US company New Balance.
The European champions were taken to court over their alleged refusal to honour a reported £40m-a-year deal, which expires in May 2020.
Under the terms, the footwear firm is entitled to renew its sponsorship if it matches any competitor’s offer.
But Liverpool argued that New Balance could not match Nike’s five-year deal of £30m a year in terms of marketing.
Giving his ruling in London, Mr Justice Teare ruled in Liverpool’s favour, finding that “the New Balance offer on marketing was less favourable to Liverpool FC than the Nike offer”.
The judge said New Balance could not match Nike’s offer to use “three non-football global superstar athletes and influencers of the calibre of” tennis legend Serena Williams, basketball star LeBron James and the musician Drake.
New Balance has been Liverpool’s official kit supplier since the 2015-16 season. The sportswear firm said at the time it was “an important step for… launching into football and reflects the global growth ambitions of the brand”.
Opening the firm’s case last week, Daniel Oudkerk QC said the key issue was whether New Balance had matched “the material, measurable and matchable terms of a third-party offer”.
Liverpool argued New Balance had not matched Nike’s offer, which includes a commitment to sell licensed products in at least “6,000 stores worldwide, 500 of which shall be Nike-owned”.
But Mr Oudkerk said New Balance has “approximately 40,000-odd retail doors globally”.
He argued Liverpool dismissed New Balance’s offer to match terms as the club was “wedded to Nike”, and that “it appears that the club had resolved to reject the New Balance match come what may”.
Guy Morpuss QC, representing the Premier League club, said New Balance’s claim it could distribute the club’s kit to 40,000 stores was “a myth”, adding the company had “grossly overstated” the number of stores to which it could distribute.
“The idea that New Balance would even get football kit into anything close to those 40,000 stores is utterly fanciful,” he added.
The court also heard that Liverpool spent more than £555,000 on the case, with 20% to be paid by New Balance.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Teare said: “Liverpool FC is not obliged to enter into a new agreement with New Balance.”
A Liverpool spokesperson said the club was pleased with the judge’s decision.
“We will continue with New Balance for the current season, in combination with preparing next season’s Liverpool kits with our new supplier.”
A New Balance spokeswoman said the firm was disappointed, adding: “We believe strongly that we matched the competing offer and would have delivered many more years of record-breaking kit sales.”