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(2nd LD) Court rejects injunction application against nat'l skating federation in uniform row

All Headlines 20:09 May 29, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with new sponsor at bottom)

SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Monday rejected an application for an injunction to stop the national skating federation from selecting its new corporate sponsor.

South Korean sports apparel brand FILA Korea last week filed an injunction against the Korea Skating Union (KSU) to halt its sponsor selection process on the grounds that the KSU had violated the spirit of fair play.

But the Seoul Eastern District Court said FILA didn't offer clear evidence that transparency and fairness had been compromised. The court added that if the process were halted, then the athletes would end up being innocent victims because they would be without new uniforms.

FILA Korea has been at odds with the KSU over the organization's selection of the Dutch apparel company Hunter as the new uniform supplier. FILA had been providing national team skating uniforms since October 2012 and its contract with the KSU expired at the end of last month.

In protest to the KSU's move, FILA released the results of a study showing that its products were lighter and offered less air resistance. FILA also said Hunter's uniforms will cost skaters more than a second off their times.

These photos provided by FILA Korea on May 17, 2017, show speed skating uniforms by FILA Korea (four images on the left) being compared with products by the Dutch company Hunter in a test. Hunter has been selected by the Korea Skating Union (KSU) as the national team uniform supplier, but FILA Korea claims its products are superior and is accusing the KSU of an unfair selection process. (Yonhap)

The KSU tested uniforms from three companies -- FILA, Hunter and Mizuno -- on four speed skaters and four short track speed skaters, and seven of those eight preferred Hunter. The KSU has maintained that its selection process has been clean since the athletes themselves picked Hunter.

One prominent speed skater, two-time reigning Olympic champion Lee Sang-hwa, didn't participate in the testing because of her training schedules. She's reportedly in favor of FILA products.

FILA countered that using the athletes' comfort level with uniforms was highly unreliable and subjective, and since the tests were done behind closed doors, it was difficult to verify their transparency and fairness.

FILA also accused the KSU of limiting the company's rights as the national team corporate sponsor without reasonable grounds, and added the KSU also stripped FILA of an opportunity to enter the proper bidding to remain as a sponsor by making unreasonable demands at the last minute. FILA claimed that the KSU opened the bidding to only the companies that had previous business dealings with Hunter.

The Seoul court sided with the KSU and said there wasn't enough proof that Hunter's uniforms would negatively affect the skaters' performance.

"And even if those uniforms did cause those problems, FILA is in no position to make such claims as a third party," the court explained.

Hours after the court's decision, the KSU announced a consortium of two local companies as its new sponsors.

After its directors of board meeting, the KSU said Bravo & New and Yongone Corp. will replace FILA as its main sponsors and supply Hunter's uniforms to national skaters.

Brave & New holds the local distribution rights for Hunter, and Yongone will place a logo of one of its brands on the uniforms, the KSU said.


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