French-based media company withdraw legal action against Tonga Rugby Union

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A legal dispute that threatened to have “serious implications” on the Pacific Island nation of Tonga’s preparations for this year’s Rugby World Cup has been withdrawn.

The dispute centred around a judgement for €143,000 obtained by a French-based media company called SARL Team One Events against the Tonga Rugby Union over image rights.

The company sought to enforce the judgement through the Irish courts by obtaining an order compelling rugby union’s world governing body World Rugby Ltd, which is registered in Ireland, to pay Team One Events money due to be paid to the Tongans.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan at the High Court today when Stephen Byrne Bl for World Rugby said the action against his client had been withdrawn on consent.

Counsel said his side wanted it to be made known that no payment had been made by World Rugby to the company.

This counsel said was because World Rugby did not want any “copycat” applications to be made over discretionary grant payments it makes to unions including Tonga’s.

Paul Binchy Bl for One Team Events said his client was consenting to the matter being struck out.

The judge, who agreed to vacate all previous orders made in the case, adjourned the matter to allow the parties to consider the issue of legal costs to a date later this month.

In its action, Team One Events, which is based in Toulouse, France, claimed it entered into an agreement with the Tonga Union in March 2014 concerning the use of the sporting body’s image rights until the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The company claimed that under the contract it was to get 30% commission on any income generated from the exploitation of the image rights and the Tonga Union would get a minimum of US$300,000, half of which was paid up front after the contract was signed.

As part of the contract, the company claims the Union was forbidden from entering into contracts with third parties as Tonga’s match or tournament sponsors till after the conclusion of the 2015 RWC.

The company claims that in June 2014 the contract was breached when Tonga, in a game against Samoa, had the name of a sponsor on their shirts without Team One Events permission.

This resulted in the company bringing a claim against the Tonga Union in the French courts.

The company subsequently obtained a judgement for €143,000 against the Tonga Union, which it claimed was not satisfied.

In order to enforce the French Court’s judgement, the company sought an order from the Irish High court known as a garnishee order, which is used to enforce a judgment debt against a creditor to recover money.

The company sought to have World Rugby Ltd, which is due to make a payment to the Tonga Union, to instead make a payment to One Team Events.

The company claimed that World Rugby Limited intended to make staged payments of fees for image rights to various Unions, including Tonga, for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

World Rugby opposed the application. It claimed that the company was not entitled to the payment, and said the matter could have serious implications for Tonga as its squad prepares for the World Cup.

World Rugby’s payments to the Tonga Union are to cover the costs of its preparations for the tournament, including the Tongan’s travel and accommodation expenses for the tournament itself, it claimed.

Rugby Union is the Pacific Island nation’s national game, and the Tongans face England, France, Argentina and the USA in Pool C of the competition.



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