This may be the first time in history that William Shakespeare is mentioned on a badminton website. But the very famous line from his play about the Danish Prince Hamlet comes in very handy in this situation.

In the play it is Marcellus who says the famous words, just as it is Marcellus who first alerts Horatio about the ghost of King Hamlet (not to be confused with Prince Hamlet). Now a ghost has been awaken in Danish badminton as well.

It is a case that has actually been pending in the background for a few years already: Who owns the commercial rights of the national team badminton players? Disagreements of how to interpret the agreement signed by the Danish badminton federation, Badminton Denmark, and the players are the key issue of the conflict now.

The agreement between the national federation and the players was signed in 2013 and was running until 2020. A week ago Badminton Denmark decided to terminate the agreement as per end of November 2018. They wish to negotiate a new agreement, which cannot be interpreted in several ways.

What seems easy is actually complicated

The basic problem with the current agreement is that it is unclear who owns the commercial rights of the national team players. In our opinion it would be fairly clear to decide that when the players represent the national team they are obviously obliged to use the federation’s clothing brands and whatever sponsors are printed on this. And then they play individually in tournaments they should play in the clothing brands of their own sponsors with those personal sponsors they have printed on this. But while this is so easy to say, reality is much more complicated.

Another reason why Badminton Denmark terminated the agreement now is that they fear sponsors to withdraw their support to Danish badminton. President of Badminton Denmark, Bo Jensen, has said to Denmark’s biggest news agency Ritzau that the withdrawal from several sponsors would have the consequence that the federation would have to reduce their investment in the Danish elite program. And it is this program that is helping the Danish players to develop into the high level they have reached today.

Cookiegate

We are not in a position to judge who is right and who is wrong. Of course Badminton Denmark wants to respect the agreements with their sponsors – but the players obviously also want to respect the agreements with their personal sponsors. Not just want to; they are legally bounded by the wording in the agreements, and it may very well be a matter of wording in all involved sponsorship agreements, which eventually lead to the current conflict in Danish elite badminton.

Some may remember “Cookiegate” – the conflict between Badminton Denmark and some of the Danish national team players in 2015, where there were also disputes because of sponsor agreements. The federation had one cookie producer as sponsor while several players had another. None of these obviously wanted the players they sponsored to appear with the name of their competitor on their shirts – simple logic but a difficult situation when you mix it with legal agreements.

Now what?

The Danish elite players now have to negotiate a new agreement with their national federation. Should they fail to do so, worst case scenario would be that they cannot represent their country at future team European Championships and World Championships. On top of that it might be doubtful if the federation would register them for the individual European and World Championships as well. Should it happen that the top players aren’t allowed to play, nobody wins. So our guess is that we will soon have news about a new agreement so Denmark’s top shuttlers can continue to deliver strong results for their country.

The conflict in Danish badminton looks very much like the conflict that Danish football is currently going through these days. In a friendly match against Slovakia on Wednesday this week the Danish national team consisted of 23 players from the lower Danish divisions and the Danish futsal national team. The reason for the football conflict is also due to disagreements about the commercial rights of the national team players. So the conclusion could be; something is rotten in the state of Denmark…

We will follow up on this story when we hear more news.

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