Adidas set to sue All England Club

WIMBLEDON champion Roger Federer and Tim Henman could be dragged into a High Court battle between adidas and the All England Club next month.

The sports wear giant are suing the All England Club in May, seeking damages and an injunction against rules limiting the size of advertising logos on players’ clothing.

It is part of a worldwide action launched by adidas against the Grand Slam tournaments, which includes Wimbledon, and the International Tennis Federation.

The action against the All England Club also includes every member of the club so adidas are in effect also suing Federer and Henman who, as well as being sponsored to wear adidas clothing, are also All England members.

All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie said yesterday: “I think it’s a great shame they are suing a group of people who put all the profits of the event back into tennis. We think it’s heavy handed that the action also includes all the individual members of the club.”

The action has come about as a result of the four Grand Slam organisers limiting the size of logos. They claim the famous adidas three stripes are subject to the rule change and negotiations, which have been held since the decision was taken 11 months ago, have failed to break the deadlock. “We do not want a situation where we see players covered in manufacturers identifications. You could see players becoming walking advertising hoardings,” Ritchie said.

“We believe it is absolutely right to restrict advertising on players’ clothing and to maintain a tasteful and professional dress code.”

“The rules must be the same for all manufacturers. Allowing the registered three stripes manufacturers’ identification to continue to be advertised all over player clothing would inevitably result in equally large ‘swooshes’ and ‘crocodiles’ and other identities.

“That, in our view, would be inappropriate in a Grand Slam and Wimbledon environment.”

Wimbledon are also stridently resisting equal pay for men and women players. With next month’s French Open giving women parity for the first time, Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament still operating a differential.

This year the men’s champion will receive £655,000, with the women’s title holder collecting £625,000 – both £25,000 up on last year.

Confirmation the men would continue to receive higher prize money than women met with an angry response from the WTA Tour, who run women’s tennis at a professional level and chief executive Larry Scott accused the event of a “morally indefensible” attitude.

A statement from Scott read: “The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and our members are deeply disappointed Wimbledon have failed to do the right thing, and continue to promote inequality in pay across the board between men and women. In the 21st century, it is morally indefensible that women competitors in a grand slam tournament should be receiving considerably less prize money than their male counterparts.

“Women got the vote in Britain in 1918, and the Sex Discrimination Act has been in force for over 30 years, yet Wimbledon continue to take a Victorian era view when it comes to pay.

“Wimbledon represent so much that is good about modern British society, but inequality should not be part of the Wimbledon brand.”

All England Club chairman Tim Phillips defended the differential on the grounds that the top 10 women took more away from last year’s championships than the top 10 men due to their involvement in doubles.

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