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Ashley fails to get injunction against Newcastle owners

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An attempt by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct to get Newcastle United to sell next season’s shirts in its shops has failed.

The Competition Appeals Tribunal unanimously rejected the retailer’s request for an immediate injunction to stop the club’s exclusive deal with JD Sports.

Sports Direct, run by former Newcastle owner Ashley, had alleged competition would be damaged by the move, which would have seen Newcastle’s kit for the 2024/25 season sold exclusively on its club store and JD Sports.

The retailer will still be able to take the club to court over the matter at a later date, the tribunal said in its judgment on Friday.

Sports Direct lawyers had previously said preventing the “home of football supplies” from selling cheaper shirts would harm fans but the tribunal ruled that this was a “neutral factor” in its decision.

Newcastle’s kit is currently made by Castore, but the club will drop the British company next season after agreeing a “multi-year partnership” with Adidas.

Court documents said “there was no reasonable or legitimate expectation on the part of Sports Direct of continuity of supply from Castore”.

“To suggest that there was some obligation on Newcastle United FC and Adidas to ensure in their arrangements (i.e. between the Club and Adidas) that supply to Sports Direct be maintained over time represents a significant fetter on competition, not an enhancement of it,” the three-person panel said in a written judgment.

The judgement added the injunction refusal made “a speedy trial more, and not less, urgent”.

“We expect speedy (and, ideally, agreed) proposals from the parties, failing which the Tribunal will, in short order, make its own proposals,” it said.

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