One of the biggest football clubs in the world, Real Madrid, and some of its star players, including David Beckham, Zinédine Zidane and Ronaldo, are suing several UK bookmakers over claims they have used the club's name and players' images without authorisation.
The club said it and some of its players were taking action against seven bookmakers, including Ladbrokes, part of the Hilton Group, William Hill, Sportingbet, Betfair and Victor Chandler. It claims these companies have been using photographs and images of players, wearing Real Madrid shirts and badges, on their internet-betting sites without permission.
Real Madrid said: "During the past few years we have seen a spectacular growth in the activities of sporting betting organisations that operate on the internet. It has been proved that these online betting companies use the name of Real Madrid and that the majority of its players without any type of authorisation." The club said it had begun legal action to "obtain the cessation and redress of the harm caused by these companies to Real Madrid and players by the unauthorised use of their names and images".
The bookmakers intend to fight the allegations, however. A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: "The details of these claims are still unclear, but we believe we have done nothing wrong and we will defend ourselves robustly."
A spokesman for William Hill said images on its website are sourced from an authorised, third-party supplier. "The name of Real Madrid does appear on our website, but so it does on every bookmaker's, because we offer odds on its games. We have no doubt that the images we have used were fully authorised and are completely baffled by this action," he said.
Real Madrid said legal proceedings had been launched in France, Belgium and Germany against the companies.