U.S. Soccer Sues Sports Authority Over World Cup Ads Using Licensed Marks

Sports Authority Inc., the biggest U.S. athletic gear chain, was sued by U.S. Soccer Federation for running television spots linked to the World Cup without authorization.

The federation, soccer’s governing body in the U.S., claims that Sports Authority ads televised during the national team’s June 12 match against England showed U.S. team member Taylor Twellman and former National Football League player Michael Strahan wearing its trademarked uniforms and crest.

“U.S. Soccer only permits one sporting goods retailer to use its marks on an exclusive basis,” the federation said today in a complaint filed against TSA Stores Inc., the company that operates Sports Authority, in federal court in Chicago. Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. Inc. is the team’s only licensed retailer, it said.

The U.S. played England to a 1-1 draw in its first match of the quadrennial tournament in South Africa. The Americans are slated to play Slovenia tomorrow.

The federation said it sent a letter June 11 telling Sports Authority to stop displaying ads featuring the U.S. team’s uniform and logo. The ad aired the following day and is expected to appear again during tomorrow’s match, according to the complaint. TSA had no permission to show team logos or uniforms in the spots and Twellman wasn’t authorized to appear in them, the federation said.

U.S. Soccer is seeking a court order barring the retailer from using its marks, together with compensatory and punitive damages. The federation is based in Chicago.

‘Caught by Surprise’

“Today, we were caught by surprise and hope to resolve this matter expeditiously and cooperatively with the United States Soccer Federation and are engaged in active dialogue with them to do so,” David Campisi, the president and chief executive officer of Sports Authority, said in an e-mailed statement.

Dick’s, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, is the largest publicly traded sporting goods chain in the U.S. Dick’s CEO Edward Stack has said competition in the business is increasing.

“We’ll be keeping a very close eye on what Sports Authority is doing,” he said on a conference call last month to discuss first-quarter earnings.

Revenue in the 13 weeks ended May 1 rose 9.2 percent to $1.05 billion, Dick’s said in a statement May 18. Sales at established locations climbed 8.2 percent.

Dick’s fell 49 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $28.40 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 14 percent this year.

As of May 1, the company had 424 Dick’s stores in 41 states and 91 Golf Galaxy stores in 31 states. Sports Authority has more than 450 stores in 45 states, according to its website. The retailer was acquired in 2006 by Los Angeles private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LP for $1.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The case is United States Soccer Federation v. TSA Stores Inc., 10cv3755, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

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