29 November 2017

Zambia: MTN, State House in Potential Clash Over Buffaloes, City Match

MTN has filed an appeal against the directive by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission that compelled FAZ to allow City of Lusaka continue using Woodlands Stadium but the process throws one of the season ending deciding fixtures which President Edgar Lungu is expected to watch on Saturday into jeopardy.

According to ex-parte summons date stamped November 13, 2017 before the Tribunal responsible for Competition and Consumer Protection, MTN demands that the court quashes the CCPC directive granting City of Lusaka interim relief to access Woodlands Stadium until the appeal is disposed.

MTN contend that the continued use of Woodlands Stadium by City of Lusaka, a club sponsored by a rival company Vodafone, violates the its rights based on the sponsorship agreement it enjoys with FAZ.

President Lungu is expected to watch the FAZ Super Division concluding match involving hosts City and title contenders Green Buffaloes at Woodlands stadium in Lusaka on Saturday.

The highly anticipated match is one of the four crucial fixtures set to decide the 2017 FAZ Super Division championship.

However, a decision by the court will throw plans for the big clash on Saturday into chaos and potentially ridicule the Office of the President.

MTN submits that CPCC issued the directive to FAZ without giving the firm an opportunity to be heard, a position they claim abrogates section 62 of the CPCC Act No. 24 of 2010.

"... while the appellant [MTN] was given an opportunity to be heard on the Notice, the Respondent [CPCC] did not give the appellant [MTN] an opportunity to make representations regarding the interim measure or directive," Bumi Kalala, the MTN corporate legal affairs assistant, argues.

MTN contends that the company, in its agreement with FAZ, enjoys exclusive rights to both the league and national team match advertising as it is the main sponsor.

The company argues it has the following rights;

"(a) Stadium branding rights which allow it to place its intellectual property on a specific number of advertising boards with specified dimensions at all Super League matches;

"(b) Exclusive branding rights with respect to the stadium where Super League matches are due to be played which rights are subject to prior approval of the stadium owner;

"(c) The first right of negotiation with other Super League football clubs with regards to the purchasing of additional advertising space at the club's stadia; and

"(d) The right not to have any presence of its competitors within the stadium and for a radius of 200m around the stadium during Zambia National Soccer Team games."

According to the MTN legal team, the agreement with FAZ allows for other forms of advertisement in the stadia where Super League matches were concerned, but not national team matches.

In a direct challenge to Vodafone who after pumping money into City of Lusaka have assumed the naming rights for Woodlands stadium, MTN aver that, "... any competitor of the Appellant [MTN] is free to offer FAZ a better sponsorship deal which becomes contractual when consummated."

As for now, MTN demand their exclusive rights because they pay FAZ for the sponsorship and that it is the common practice to enjoy the "fruit of their labor".

MTN argue that based on the circumstances of the case, the CPCC directive compelling FAZ to allow City of Lusaka use Woodlands Stadium with its sponsor Vodafone enjoying acres of space for advertising was illegal.

"It is desirable and in the interest of justice that the decision of the Respondent [CPCC] be quashed pending appeal to the Tribunal because the Appellant's [MTN] rights under the Agreement will be violated and rendered nugatory," Kalala submits.

If the tribunal grants the ex-parte summons before the first hearing of the appeal on December 6, City will lose the right to use Woodlands stadium and must make last minute arrangements to fulfill the next fixture due in 72 hours.

Buffaloes, Zesco United, Zanaco and Nkana all have the chance to be crowned champions depending on the result of the weekend fixtures.

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