Huddersfield fined £50,000 over Paddy Power shirt stunt but wanted kit banned by referee
Championship side fined after admitting FA misconduct charge surrounding oversized sponsorship logo on kit for pre-season match
By Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter
Last Updated: 05/09/19 5:33pm
Huddersfield Town chairman Phil Hodgkinson asked a referee to ban players from wearing a controversial kit which has cost his club a £50,000 fine.
Despite the incident later being revealed as a PR stunt, the FA asked the Championship side to explain their heavily-branded Paddy Power shirt worn in a pre-season game against Rochdale on July 17.
The strip featured a huge diagonal sash with new sponsors 'Paddy Power' written down it.
As a result, the club breached section C.2i of the FA's Kit and Advertising regulations, which states a jersey is permitted to have "one single area not exceeding 250 square centimetres on the front of the shirt".
The club admitted the charge and the governing body has warned Huddersfield over their future conduct.
The FA also published written reasons from the independent regulatory commission, which revealed Hodgkinson wanted the match referee to ban them from wearing the kit, which could have led to "potentially good publicity".
"The HTFC chairman informed me of the significant publicity around their Paddy Power sponsored kit and expected media attention for this match," referee Martin Coy submitted in written evidence.
"He said that the kit was not actually their real kit and it was all part of an advertising campaign. He said that he did not want the squad to wear the kit as the FA had informed HTFC by phone call that it would be a breach of their regulations. He said that he was new to the chairman role, this being his first game and he didn't want to be charged by the FA.
"He wanted me to ban them from wearing the kit and said that my decision could then potentially be good publicity and part of the advertising campaign.
"I was uncomfortable with this and felt it was not my place to ban the kit outright, but I informed them that I would recommend they followed the rules and advice from the FA. I also stated that I did not want to be part of any publicity. At this point the chairman said that the team would not wear the kit and I would not be part of any advertising…"
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The club claimed they would be in breach of a sponsorship agreement with Paddy Power if the team did not wear an oversized logo.
Hodgkinson wrote to the commission: "We were threatened with legal action and the sponsor said that it would be deemed to be a material breach of the sponsorship agreement if the team did not wear the oversized logo.
"In the circumstances, when faced with the threat of serious legal action from the club's main sponsor, and with no time to seek external legal advice, we felt we had no alternative but to wear the oversized logo in the match. This is an unfortunate event but we accept responsibility and offer a full apology."
The commission, led by Christopher Quinlan QC, wrote: "If the sponsor said that, it is difficult to see why the club felt at all threatened by it. By Clause 5.1.7 one of the club's responsibilities pursuant to the Sponsorship Agreement is that it "will comply with applicable laws and the regulations".
"By virtue of Clause 1.1 of the Sponsorship Agreement "Regulations" include the FA's regulations. Therefore, the club had a responsibility under the Sponsorship Agreement to comply with the FA's Kit and Advertising Regulations. It could hardly be a material breach of the agreement to comply with its terms. That should have been apparent to anyone who read it."
The panel said it did not receive any evidence from Paddy Power.
In asking the commission to fine the club, the FA stated: "The FA does not consider the fact that the kit was only worn in one friendly fixture to be particularly mitigating. The blatant nature of the advertisement garnered much media attention and, to use the colloquial phrase, 'the damage was already done'."
"Whilst betting companies are currently permitted to advertise on kits, The FA submits that the decision to enlarge the advertisement in such an overt manner was irresponsible, particularly in the current climate regarding gambling."