Italian football league secures freezing order against Irish-based media company

By Ann O'Loughlin

An agent of Italy's top football league has secured a High Court freezing order preventing an Irish-based media firm from reducing its assets below a value of €18m.

The orders were obtained by Infront Italy SPA against Media Partners & Silva Limited in a dispute over payments of monies allegedly due for the international rights to show games in Serie A, which features games involving top clubs like Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Roma and Napoli.

The order was sought on the grounds the media company could dissipate funds away from the Irish entity.

The court heard that Media Partners and Silva are part of a worldwide group whose business includes the distribution of television rights for various football leagues around the globe.

Jarlath Ryan BL for Infront said his client is an agent of Serie A professional football league which signed an agreement, following a tender process to assign the international audiovisual rights of the games to Media Partners and Silva, with an address at Northumberland Road, Ballsbridge Dublin 4.

The deal operated from the start of the 2015-16 Serie A season to the end of the 2017-18 seasons for €4.68m per season.

The company had made some of the payments due, but now appears not to be in a position to pay its obligations.

Counsel said that as of June 2018 Infront was owed €22m by the defendant. That debt was acknowledged by the defendant's CEO, counsel said.

The defendant had agreed to make monthly payments of €5.5m from September to December 2018. Unfortunately, no such payments have been made, counsel said.

As a result, Infront is seeking orders from the Irish courts in aid of the execution of European Orders for Payment obtained from the courts in Milan arising out of the failure to pay monies it claims are owed by Media Partners and Silva.

Counsel said there is an urgency as the French Tennis Federation has lodged a petition with the London High Court seeking to wind up a related company within the same group of companies as the defendant.

Counsel said it was feared that companies within the group may be insolvent.

Counsel said his client was further concerned by other media reports which stated that Arsenal Football Club and the Scottish Professional Football league had cut their ties with Media Partners & Silva over unpaid fees.

Counsel said the defendant had interacted meaningfully with it up until June of this year but has now stopped doing this. This was a great cause of concern in light of the very significant financial obligations the defendants have to Infront, counsel said.

Given all the circumstances, counsel said that his client feared that funds may be dissipated by the defendant and that a Mareva type injunction or freezing order would protect Infront's position.

The orders preventing Media Partners & Silva from reducing or dissipating its assets below a value of €18m were granted on an ex parte basis by Ms Justice Caroline Costello on Tuesday.

The case will come back before the court next week.

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