Saturday, 2 August 2014

What would be the most costly legal case in the world if it happened

Although I have been long aware that many soccer fans intensely dislike other sports which allow the use of hands by field players being called ‘football’, the following note in the soccer versus gridiron debate is really funny and yet really serious (I leave participants anonymous):
  • “FIFA should file an infringement suit and force the NFL to change their sport’s name to ‘handegg’” 
  • “Haha, nice idea. I don’t think FIFA could afford the lawyers to win a case in the US!”
‘FIFA’ actually stands for ‘Fédération Internationale de Football Association’ or ‘International Federation of Association Football’. Contrast this with something like ‘International Football Association’ or ‘International Football Federation’ which would imply there was only one kind of football. (In contrast the international basketball association ‘FIBA’ originally stood for ‘Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur’ before dropping the last word in 1989).

Whilst I do not think FIFA has any intention of refusing to accept the use of ‘football’ for sports like Australian football (footy) or American and Canadian football (gridiron), when i saw that note on Google it made me think what would happen if FIFA really did wish to follow the “soccer purists” and insist that only soccer be called ‘football’.

In my imagination I thought that the NFL – which of course would be the first sport challenged given its popularity in the US and on television abroad – would pursue a system of defence lawyers that nobody could stop from turning into a record-setter for legal cost, given that both soccer and gridiron (not to mention several other sports) want to claim the word ‘football’ as their own and are extremely large businesses with consequent financial power.

FIFA might be better able to afford the lawyers in the US than the writer above said, but the NFL and other organisations would not like to be faced with changes from a long established name. More than that, the name ‘National Handegg League’ is a non-option because ‘NHL’ is already taken by the National Hockey League, itself the fourth most popular league in North America, so it would have to be ‘MLH’ or ‘Major League Handegg’ which would be even more unacceptable.

For these reasons, the challenge to the NFL’s name (and naturally to other league like the Australian Football League) which “soccer purists” sometimes wish for would necessarily involve international law and constitute a case of a size only fiction writers could even imagine! It would, in fact, be analogous in costs to a war, and would affect the ability of the bodies involved to do their essential business so much as to disturb the whole fabric of these sports!

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