Manchester United is Suing Football Manager

By Rich Stanton on at

Former good football team Manchester United has had enough! The club has taken time off from sacking managers and signing duds to launch legal action against SEGA and Sports Interactive, the makers of the Football Manager series, because the game includes the club's name, and does not include the club's logo. This, apparently, "deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed."

Aw diddums! The Guardian/PA Media broke the story, and reports Manchester United's barrister Simon Malynicz QC as claiming the following: “the name ‘Manchester United’ is one of the world’s most valuable and recognised brands” [...] “the products and services that are licensed by the claimant benefit from an association with the club’s winning culture and its brand values”. He admits the argument is “somewhat novel, and certainly in the context of video games, but it is certainly arguable”.

That may be the case, though Malynicz then went on to ask that fan-made mods are included as part of the claim. The judge, Mr Justice Morgan, has reserved his ruling on this for a later date.

Roger Wyand QC is representing the defendants, and in a written statement points out the name has been used in SI's games since 1992 “without complaint by the claimant” [...] “The claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use.” The statement goes on to point out various positive relationships between SI and Manchester United over the years, including the use of the Football Manager database for scouting purposes.

The defence boils down to this: “[it] would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression to restrain the use of the words ‘Manchester United’ to refer to a team in a computer game”.

You want to know the funniest thing about all this? Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the current Manchester United manager, admits that he cut his teeth on Football Manager. If Simon Malynicz QC really wants to make the case, maybe he could point out that it obviously didn't help much.