Cleary Gottlieb Counsel to Wimbledon and Australian Open Organizers in UK High Court Competition Action

October 17, 2006

Cleary Gottlieb represented The Lawn Tennis Association and The All England Lawn Tennis And Croquet Club (which together run Wimbledon) and Tennis Australia (which runs the Australian Open) in two joined High Court actions relating to alleged breaches of EU and UK competition law.

The actions were brought by manufacturers of tennis clothing including Adidas, Nike and Puma against the operators of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments (the organizations running Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the U.S. Open and the French Open) and the International Tennis Federation (which operates a number of other tournaments, including the Davis Cup and Fed Cup). Cleary Gottlieb represented three of the six defendants and played a key coordinating role on behalf of the other defendants. Both actions were scheduled to proceed to trial before the High Court in October, but were settled shortly before trial.

The two actions related to a dress rule applied by the Grand Slam and the International Tennis Federation that regulates the size and placement of manufacturers’ identifications on clothing worn by players during the tournaments operated by defendants. The three manufacturers alleged that the dress rule infringed EU and UK competition rules in its treatment of Adidas’ signature three stripes.

Until recently there has been very little private enforcement through the courts of EU or UK competition law. While parties have traditionally looked to the European Commission or the UK competition regulator to pursue alleged breaches of competition rules, these authorities encourage greater use of private enforcement by parties suffering from the alleged breach.