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Orlando Predators, City of Orlando Start Legal Spat Over Sponsorships

Adam Markowitz
Friday July 12, 2013

ORLANDO, FL (Updated 7/12, 9:55 p.m. ET) -- Advertising in the Arena Football League has never been easy, but for the Orlando Predators, the task got a heck of a lot harder on Thursday when the City of Orlando filed a lawsuit against the team for the use of Fairwinds Credit Union as a sponsor of the club.

WTFV originally broke the story late on Thursday night that the Predators were being sued for unpaid sponsorship money totaling around $24,000. Since then, it has been reported that the city is not looking for any money from the Predators, but it is looking for a judge to settle what the Orlando Sentinel referred to as "an argument over contract language."

According to that same report by the Orlando Sentinel, one of the Predators' sponsors, Fairwinds Credit Union, is the sponsor in question. In January, the Orlando Magic signed a partnership deal with JP Morgan Chase as their official financial services partner. Fairwinds is in direct competition with Chase.

When the Amway Center was built, the Magic were given exclusive advertising rights to six companies. Coming into 2013, those six companies included Amway, AirTran, Disney, Florida Hospital, Harris, and Pepsi. JP Morgan Chase became the seventh of those sponsors in January.

Whether it be the Predators, the Orlando Solar Bears, or any other tenant coming into the Amway Center, no one can compete with those advertisers, and any advertising revenue earned through those sponsors would be money due to the Magic and the City of Orlando. In addition to that, no one could advertise with competitors of the major sponsors, severely limiting the ability for a team like the Predators to find sponsorship dollars.

In August 2010, the Magic signed a multi-year deal with Fairwinds Credit Union to be a sponsor of the team. Whether that deal expired or was terminated by the Magic is unknown, but Fairwinds was never one of the exclusive sponsors, leaving sponsorship packages open for any others who wished to advertise with the credit union. Both the Predators and the Solar Bears have sponsorship deals with Fairwinds, and both are advertising Fairwinds on their respective websites.

Preds owner Brett Bouchy has stated that he intends to countersue the City of Orlando and the Magic for $50,000, money that the Orlando Sentinel is reporting could be due to the Predators for the signing of a new exclusive advertising partner.

"We are at the point that we have to either give make-goods or refunds back to our sponsors and season ticket holders," Bouchy told WESH Orlando. "We expect the city of Orlando to reimburse us for the costs associated with the make-goods and refunds."

The Predators already are going to be taking 20% off of season ticket prices for the 2014 season for current season ticket holders due to the Predators Performance Guarantee, and that number could get as high as 50% if the Preds lose the remainder of their games on the schedule.

The question that remains up in the air at this hour is whether the Predators are able to maintain their contract with Fairwinds. The Solar Bears maintained their relationship with the credit union through the 2013 season, which ran beyond the date of the signing of the JP Morgan Chase contract with the Magic. The Predators had not started their 2013 season when the Chase contract was signed.

"All we want to do is protect the Orlando Predators," Bouchy told WFTV.

The Predators signed a five-year lease with the Amway Center just prior to the 2011 season.

Orlando is the third AFL team this season to be accused of not paying bills by its own arena, joining the Chicago Rush and the Utah Blaze.

ArenaFan has requested an interview with Brett Bouchy and is expecting to conduct this interview on Saturday. We will continue to update this story as more details emerge.

Adam Markowitz is an accountant and a freelance sports writer living in Orlando. As a Florida State graduate with degrees in music and history, the garnet and gold will forever be a part of him, but he bleeds the black and red of the Orlando Predators like none other. Adam has been following the AFL since 1991 and has been at well over 200 games, including 16 ArenaBowls. You can follow Adam on Twitter @AFLGuru.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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