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Mike Ashley takes NUFC to regulators in kit row

Mike Ashley
Newcastle United's former owner, Mike Ashley, also owns Sports Direct

Newcastle United's former owner Mike Ashley is seeking an injunction against the club in row over its football kits.

The retail tycoon, who owns Sports Direct, says the club is "abusing" its dominant market position by refusing to allow the company to sell replica shirts.

Rival company JD Sports has been granted exclusive rights to sell the kits in a move that effectively cuts out Sports Direct, claim documents suggest.

The BBC has contacted Newcastle United for a response to the Competition Appeal Tribunal claim, which also asks for damages to be paid.

The claim, submitted by Sportsdirect.com, says the sale of replica kits is important in attracting customers to sports retailers.

It says Newcastle United's previous manufacturer, Castore Ltd, consistently supplied Sports Direct with the club's replica kit, and the company had "every expectation" the supply would continue.

However, the club recently terminated its agreement with Castore and licensed Adidas as its exclusive manufacturer.

Under the new arrangements, the claim suggests, only Adidas, the club and JD Sports would be able to sell the kits.

Action shot of football match
Newcastle United's iconic black and white strips will be manufactured by Adidas from next season

Documents submitted ahead of a hearing in April suggest the exclusivity arrangements effectively cut Sports Direct out in favour of its rival and represent a breach of the Competitions Act.

The claim asks for an injunction to prevent the club "continuing to abuse its dominant position by adopting a strategy of excluding Sports Direct from the market for the retail supply of the club's replica kit", and to prevent it from "including unlawful exclusivity provisions" in contracts governing the distribution and sale of replica kits.

Unspecified damages, costs and interest are also being sought.

The club has until 28 March to respond.

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