The South Gauteng High Court has ruled in favour of First National Bank (FNB) following the naming rights war that ensued over the name of the venue that hosted the 2010 World Cup final.
Known as the FNB Stadium prior to the World Cup, the issue arose owing to soccer's governing body, Fifa, refusing to allow the brand names of non-official sponsors during the duration of the tournament.
The bank subsequently made an agreement with Fifa that the 94,700 capacity stadium would be known as Soccer City from three months before the opening match until a week after the World Cup final.
However, FNB took the stadiums operator, Stadium Management SA, to court after the company attempted to rename the iconic venue to the National Stadium, stipulating that it had acquired the rights from the government through a ten-year contract signed in 2007.
Much of the disagreement is thought to have arisen following the announcement that the Springboks - sponsored by rival bank Absa - will play New Zealand in a rugby union test match later this month.
"We were always sure of our rights and so we're delighted that the judge found so convincingly in our favour"
FNB spokesman, Derek Carstens, said, "The fact that they [Stadium Management SA] were going to challenge us [over the naming rights] came out of the blue. We were always sure of our rights and so we're delighted that the judge found so convincingly in our favour."
"They were talking about 'The National Stadium' for the rugby test match, but now we can move on - we have the Springboks at the FNB Stadium on August 21 to look forward to."
Judge Victor, who gave verdict on FNB's case, said, “The argument that the fact that the stadium was rebuilt meant the extinction of the period of servitude has no merit. It was clearly foreshadowed that the stadium would be reconstructed. The draft of the FNB agreement was well aware that the stadium would be reconstructed during the period of servitude.”
In light of judge Victor's verdict the Calabash shall henceforth be known as the FNB Stadium until 2014, possibly longer should FNB submit an application to extend its naming rights.