Chicago Fire Cuts Ties With And Sues Youth Soccer League

CHICAGO (STMW) – The MLS Chicago Fire has terminated its affiliation with and sued a youth soccer league, claiming it failed to pay more than $35,000 for use of team trademarks, violating a licensing agreement.

Chicago Fire Soccer LLC entered into a licensing agreement on Sept. 23, 2009, with Chicago Fire Juniors Inc. for use of its trademarks, names, logos, mascots and symbols, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

CFJI agreed to pay the Fire $50 for every player on a CFJI team annually, excluding players placed on more than 50 percent scholarship, the suit said. More than 6,000 players are involved in the leagues in five states, according to a Wednesday statement from the Fire.

The suit claims CFJI failed to pay $35,950 that is due under the agreement. That amount represents 704 “full players” at $50 each and 75 “partial players” at $10 each.

The youth league also failed to get written approval and consent from the Fire or Major League Soccer to use the Fire logo on merchandise it sold or distributed, the suit claims. CFJI failed to submit reports on performance and assessment of players.

“The Chicago Fire Soccer Club has grown its Player Development program from 400 youths to over 6,000 across five states in just four years,” the team statement said. “The Chicago Fire continue to invest in its Player Development Program to grow youth soccer in Chicagoland and across multiple states.

“As part of this measure the club is standardizing practices and centralizing its Academy and Juniors programs out of Toyota Park to provide youth soccer players greater access to a professional environment. The club continues to work with its affiliates to make sure that each affiliate club is in accordance with Chicago Fire Soccer Club standards,” the statement said.

But according to the suit, the youth league didn’t amend its bylaws to specify that at least one board position be a designee of the Fire, and didn’t develop a plan to coordinate functions, operations and ownership as required in the agreement.

Mike Jeffries of the Fire emailed CFJI President Joe Fuster on Oct. 7, 2011, and explained the youth league was in breach of contract, the suit said. Jeffries also emailed Fuster on Nov. 4, 2011, to stress the Fire’s desire to resolve the issues.

The Fire notified CFJI in writing on Nov. 22, 2011, of its intent to terminate the licensing agreement due to CFJI’s failure to pay and the resulting breach of agreement, the suit said.

The agreement stated that if CFJI was in default, the Fire has the option to terminate the agreement effective 30 days after written notice, the suit said. The 30-day period lapsed on Dec. 22, 2011, without CFJI making payment or resolving the contract issues.

On Dec. 30, 2011, the Fire terminated the licensing agreement, the suit said. The Fire sent a cease and desist letter to CFJI demanding it stop unauthorized use of Fire trademarks, but the league continues to use them on its website and representations to the public, the suit claims.

The three-count suit claims breach of contract and seeks an injunction stopping CFJI from using Fire trademarks or stating any connection with the MLS team. It also seeks $35,950, attorney fees and court costs.

A Chicago Fire Juniors spokesman declined to comment on the suit.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  • Paul F

    Great community development!

    What total fools!

    • ChiCity

      Soccer Moms demonstrating a complete disconnection between driving car pool and legal recourse.

      • Paul F

        Obvious reply from an unemployed history major.

  • The Philly Soccer Page » Nowak pleased with preseason, the Williams deal, Okugo & Adu in US U-23 win, more news

    […] Chicago Fire have terminated their affiliation with Chicago Fire Juniors and sued the youth soccer league for violating a licensing agreement through the unauthorized use of team trademarks. Why would you build a stadium that does not have stands behind one of the goals? […]

  • Between The Posts

    It’s a shame the Fire is having such money problems that they have to go after a club, who has brought them the most Academy talent to date. We all have heard the story “your child’s development is most important.” Or I should say “your money is most important.”

    • TTHMMS

      If it was in writing, the Fire are in the right. They even offered to talk about it, but Juniors didn’t respond. It wasn’t about the money, but rather having someone use your name and image to promote themselves

      • Between The Posts

        The clubs the Fire bought, stable and established before the MLS Fire logo was ever needed. The Fire needed to improve the brand, not the individual. Just ask Chicago United FC.

      • SoccerMomX2

        As a parent who had no idea what was going on…the first communication I received from the Fire was rude and derogatory. Nobody in their right mind would want to work with these people. This being said from an innocent bystander who has no idea of the politics. The letter we received was a GREAT example of POOR management skills. IF the CFJ didn’t respond you would have to wonder if they were just avoiding being bullied. I am glad our league split from them. I can’t believe they would be such jerks as to pull this garbage out now. Good riddance. Stop being a sore loser and just go! Our players can be top notch without you!

  • Between The Posts

    The clubs the Fire bought, were already stable and established. This was about the Fire trying to improve a under valued brand. Just ask Chicago United

  • Mary

    The Fire has just made their pitch here in Louisville. We have 5 of the top KY clubs in the state, right here in Louisville. And Lexington is getting the same pitch…Chicago wants to grab all our A team players and put them in their Academy. I’m glad this lawsuit came out when it did because it will help us convince parents to keep their kids in current clubs.
    Regarding the lawsuit, I’m sure its legitimate, but terribly unfortunate. I hope the Fire and CFJI can resolve it with as little expenses as possible. According to the story, there’s 779 players affected. If the Fire is asking 35,950 for lost fees, plus 35,000 for lawyer fees, that’s approximately $92 per player. I’d just ask parents to pay the fee and be done with it.

    • Dimi

      this is about the fire juniors, not the fire academy (and just the main Chicago one I think)… the fire run the academy and sublicense their lower-level development programs.

      • MOM PI

        It’s about time someone takes this organization down! If the general public only knew…
        @Dimi -I’m sure there’s $40,000 sitting in account to make this go away.
        It would not be fair to charge the parents more than they are already paying. I’m thinking someone needs to check out the salaries of the guys running the program.

        Folks-Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean they’re not profiting.

  • MOM PI

    I apologize, part of my comment was directed @ Mary not Dimi.

    GO FIRE!

  • MLS Team Files Breach of Contract Lawsuit in Chicago Court « Illinois Business Attorney Blog

    […] court, asking for more than $35,000 in damages from a local youth soccer league. According to CBS Chicago, the two organizations entered into a licensing agreement in late 2009 that allowed the Chicago […]

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