26 May 2016

Who wants to buy Mourinho-branded lingerie?


I will start by saying that I know next to nothing about the ins and outs of Premier League football. Like the rest of the UK, I was cheering for Leicester’s miracle victory this season, and I know the off-side rule when I see it. But when it comes to the endless gossip surrounding transfers, scandals, and exorbitant salaries, I am blissfully unconcerned.

That said, the squabble over Manchester United’s attempt to appoint former Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho has reached heights so bizarre it transcends the realm of sport. This is no longer a football issue – it is a matter of ownership, identity, and trademark law gone mad.

Man Utd has been in negotiations over Mourinho for three days now, and it has emerged that one issue above all others is holding things up: Chelsea still owns the rights to Mourinho’s name.

You might think that, as an autonomous individual, Mourinho himself owns his name. You would be wrong. Apparently Chelsea registered the rights to “Jose Mourinho” as a trademark in 2005, and although the manager was fired in December, it seems the club has hung onto it. If Manchester United want to use the name, they must either pay Chelsea a six-figure sum for it, or risk lawsuits.

Why would either club want the rights to Mourinho’s name anyway? This is where the story goes from irrelevant to absurd. Chelsea have been using the Mourinho trademark to sell merchandise. According to the BBC, this does not just mean branded football shirts and hats, but includes: “toiletries, technology, clothing and jewellery… from umbrellas to watch straps, lingerie and talcum powders”.

And therein lies the ultimate question. Who in their right mind wants to buy Mourinho-branded lingerie?

This is not a gender question – there are millions of women who support Chelsea and want to show their appreciation for their club. I just cannot imagine why any of them would buy some underwear branded with the name (and face) of the controversial manager.

In the interests of research, I tried to find an example of what this trademarked lingerie looks like. Alas, I have been unsuccessful. Chelsea might own the rights to undergarments featuring Mourinho’s image, but they don’t seem to be advertising them. The closest I could get were these rather disturbing Mourinho leggings, with his face stamped across the crotch (RRP £33). If anyone has a pair of Mourinho pants, please get in touch.

Needless to say, this is one of the most ridiculous stories ever to make it to the home page of BBC Sport. Let us take it as a warning: the old-fashioned days when individuals were allowed to own their names are gone. Today, Manchester United officials continue to struggle on in their quest to obtain the rights to sell their own Mourinho-branded clothing and toiletries. It’s not quite the same as playing in the Champions League, but I suppose it will give them something to fight for.

Rachel Cunliffe is Deputy Editor of CapX.