Boardroom News would like to make players aware of a disturbing new habit within certain sectors of our business. All aspiring tour/professional players should view any sponsorship offer with close scrutiny and even a little skepticism.
The more unscrupulous element of our industry is approaching players who may just have reached the second rank or be approaching the level where they may get attention from the bigger names. These players are then offered a form of equipment only sponsorship deal, that may prove attractive at that point in their career.
Plenty of branded accessories, clothing, or other items are offered, thus the deal looks attractive and may be tempting. But there may be another element to such offers. On more than one occasion recently players have been offered a very limited barrel deal, 2-6 sets of their own darts, on a very short-term basis.
Closer scrutiny leads us to believe that there may be a subtle attempt to obtain intellectual property (IP) rights via the back door. Player’s designs or even those of the company that manufactured an original dart can be copied and then re used after the new player’s deal has expired.
It would be difficult for one brand to claim infringement if the new company could show the product was designed and marketed for another player. The player finds themselves without an equipment supplier and having to purchase their own designed/labeled darts within a year, while the company gains a sought-after design for minimal cost.
A recent example went like this: Player A, who used a ‘legendary player’ barrel, was offered such a deal out of the blue. A design was then produced which was a copy of the original (with a couple of cosmetic changes). The prospective sponsor was very keen to ensure both soft tip and steel were included, even though the player had no interest in the soft tip arena.
However, the player was only experimenting with that barrel and requested that the design was changed to his preferred style and shape. The deal was instantly withdrawn and further discussion refused.
AIM: has seen the written details of this process and is deeply concerned. We have witnessed a second, although less clear cut, example, and a third is ongoing.
Whilst we value the benefits of sponsorship and accept that differing levels ensure more players benefit, and more models are made, we feel that players must be fully aware of the motives and possibilities behind these ‘sponsorships’.
We strongly suggest that any such sudden unexplained offer is looked over by an independent third party who can provide an objective assessment of any such ‘small print’.
Unexplained laughs? Check Your flies. Unexplained Offers? Check the clauses!
Words: JR Lott (Originally appeared in Darts World Magazine 571)