Fellaini battle with New Balance over boot quality 'demonstrates growing trend'

A £2m (€2.26m) legal battle featuring Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini and sportswear giant New Balance is a sign of the sporting times, according to a lawyer who specialises in commercial disputes.

The 30-year-old Belgian international says New Balance provided ''defective quality'' boots which had to be ''steamed and stretched'' by a United kit man before he could wear them.

An investment company which represents him has sued New Balance and wants around £2m (€2.26m) damages.

Rosalina Investments, which has addresses in the British Virgin Islands and Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, says New Balance has breached a contact relating to the "grant and exploitation of image rights" it owns.

They want compensation for the loss of an annual retainer, the loss of bonus payments and the ''loss of enjoyment, inconvenience and impact on performance by reason of the defective quality of football boots provided".

New Balance disputes the claims.

Solicitor John MacKenzie, who is based at law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn, says lawyers are handling more commercial disputes centred on sports stars as more become millionaires.

"There is no doubt that these types of disputes are becoming more common," said Mr MacKenzie.

"Whether it is the rights to use the sportsperson's image, or endorsement of a product, there is a lot of money involved.

"And when things go wrong, one side will want to recover that money."

He added: "These days footballers, or indeed many sportspeople, don't just put on the kit and play the game.

"Many sportspeople are given media training from an early age. Being media savvy can increase their market value.

"While it might seem like a dispute about a pair of boots, it is in fact about the whole package that Fellaini represents."

Lawyers representing Rosalina and New Balance have outlined detail of claims and counter claims in papers lodged at the High Court in London. A judge has yet to oversee a hearing.


Most Read in Sport