High Court hears legal dispute will have 'serious implications' for Tonga's RWC preparations

A legal dispute which has "serious implications" for preparations by the Pacific Island nation of Tonga for this year's Rugby World Cup has come before the High Court.

High Court hears legal dispute will have 'serious implications' for Tonga's RWC preparations

A legal dispute which has "serious implications" for preparations by the Pacific Island nation of Tonga for this year's Rugby World Cup has come before the High Court.

The dispute centres around a judgement for €143,000 obtained by a French-based media company called SARL Team One Events against the Tongan Rugby Union over image rights.

The company is seeking to enforce the judgement in this jurisdiction by obtaining an order compelling rugby union's world governing body World Rugby Ltd, which is registered in Ireland, to pay Team One Events money due to be paid to the Tongans.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Tony O'Connor at Monday's sitting of the court.

Stephen Byrne Bl for World Rugby said his side is opposing the company's application but would need time to reply to the matter.

Counsel said there was an urgency to the matter, given that Tonga will soon commence their preparations for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) in Japan, which starts on September 20.

Counsel said that the case has "serious implications" for those preparations.

Paul Binchy Bl for the company said his side were consenting to the adjournment.

The judge, after making directions in the case, adjourned the action to a date later this month.

Team One Events, which is based in Toulouse, France claims it entered into an agreement with the Tongan Union in March 2014 concerning the use of the sporting body's image rights until the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The company claims that under the contract it was to get 30% commission on any income generated from the exploitation of the image rights, and the Union would get a minimum of US$300,000, half of which was paid up front after the contract was signed.

As part of the contract, the company claims the Union was forbidden from entering into contracts with third parties as Tonga's match or tournament sponsors until after the conclusion of the 2015 RWC.

The company claims in June 2014 the contract was breached when Tonga, in a game against Samoa, had the name of a sponsor on their shirts without Team One Events permission.

This resulted in the company bringing a claim against the Tongan Union in the French courts.

The company subsequently obtained a judgement for €143,000 against the Tongan Union, which it says has not been satisfied.

In order to enforce the French Court's judgement, the company seeks an order from the Irish courts known as a garnishee order.

This type of order is used to enforce a judgment debt against a creditor to recover money.

The order would compel World Rugby Ltd, which is due to make a payment to the Tongan Union, to instead pay the judgment creditor, One Team Events.

The company claims that in relation to the 2019 RWC World Rugby Limited it intends to make staged payments of fees for image rights to various Unions including Tonga's.

It is understood the payments to the Tongan Union will be used to cover the costs of its preparations for RWC '19, including the rugby's teams travel and accommodation expenses for the tournament itself.

Rugby Union is the Pacific Island nation's national game.

While always been competitive, the Tongans have never made the knockout stages of the competition.

They face England, France, Argentina and the USA in Pool C of this year's RWC in Japan.

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