Club owner to sue football league over sponsorship clash

By Duc Dong   February 3, 2023 | 07:54 pm PT
Club owner to sue football league over sponsorship clash
Hoang Anh Gia Lai owner Doan Nguyen Duc (L) and the club's head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang during a league match. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
HAGL owner Doan Nguyen Duc is set to sue V. League organizer Vietnam Professional Football JSC (VPF) to regain full rights for his club's sponsor and amend league regulations.

"HAGL Football Club will file a lawsuit to the People’s Court of Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, where the VPF headquarters is located," Duc told VnExpress on Friday. "I’m not doing this for the money, but to seek justice. I also want the VPF to amend the regulations to make it easier for other clubs, not just HAGL, to find funding sources."

The conflict started when HAGL announced energy drink company Carabao as their new sponsor earlier this year. Another energy drink brand, Night Wolf, already had a deal to sponsor the V. League for three seasons from 2022 to 2024.

The VPF told HAGL not to use Carabao’s images during the 2023 season saying Night Wolf is the exclusive league sponsor. HAGL cannot use Carabao’s logo on billboards at matches, on players’ jerseys and in other activities related to the league.

The VPF said: "Clubs are not allowed to accept sponsorships from competing brands that are in the same categories as the sponsor of the league."

HAGL is free to sign up companies not related to energy drinks as sponsors.

They had another energy drink brand, Red Bull, as a sponsor in 2020 before the VPF signed up with Night Wolf as the V. League sponsor.

But Duc rejected its demand and warned that HAGL would withdraw from the league if the VPF does not allow Carabao to sponsor his club.

HAGL players during a training session to prepare for the first league game of new season on February 4, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Lan Lan

HAGL players wear jerseys with Carabao brand during a training session to prepare for the first league game of new season on February 4, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Lan Lan

After intense negotiations, on Wednesday HAGL proposed a solution: They will keep the sponsor’s name but remove the term "energy drink" from promotions, particularly on jerseys, billboards and other activities at their home stadium in Pleiku in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.

The next morning the VPF discussed the proposal with Night Wolf, who agreed.

But Duc’s lawsuit is certain to keep the tension alive.

Duc said the regulations announced by the Vietnam Football Federation on January 4 did not say anything about exclusive sponsorship, but the VPF added it later. In any case, he said the league’s regulations could not supplant the law.

"If the regulation is wrong, we have to fix it. I’m willing to follow this case through to the end. Even if it lasts one, two or even five years. If it’s good for Vietnamese football, I will follow through. HAGL will play in the V. League, but the battle for exclusivity will be in court, we will put ‘energy drink’ back on the name of the sponsor," he added.

Duc said he had been losing sleep during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holidays over this case.

"I have been working in football for 22 years. Without sponsorship and funding, I might have to quit football. But if HAGL quit football, what will people in Gia Lai have to enjoy on weekends. Many people have asked me if I’m really going to quit football. I don’t have the answer for that.

Fortunately, the new sponsors kept their trust in us, so we will continue to play football, but we have to wait for the court’s decision. I believe justice will win."

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