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Sponsors go to war over Rory

SPORTING giants Oakley and Nike are set to go to battle over the endorsement rights to golfing superstar Rory McIlroy.

Oakley has launched legal action to try to retain its sponsorship of world No 1 McIlroy who is set to be announced as the new face of sportswear giant Nike on Monday in Abu Dhabi.

The 23-year-old is poised to rubber-stamp a 10-year deal with US company Nike worth as much as $250m, according to media reports.

Nike is set to supply the Irishman's clubs and have its name or logo on his clothing in an exclusive deal.

Legal

However, Oakley, owned by Italy's Luxottica, is challenging the move and started legal action in its home state of California last month.

"Oakley's contract with Rory has a right of first refusal that permits us to retain Rory as an Oakley endorser by matching any offer he receives covering our products," the American sunglasses maker said.

"These types of provisions are common in the industry.

"Oakley values Rory and will do all it can to retain him."

Meanwhile, Dubliner Pádraig Harrington says he has "massive sympathy" for McIlroy over golf's return to the Olympics in 2016.

The world number one, like all Northern Ireland athletes, can choose between representing Team GB or Ireland - and, having seen the reaction last autumn to saying he felt "more British", has even said he might not to go to Brazil at all.

Harrington, in South Africa for this week's Volvo Golf Champions, said: "I have massive sympathy as an Irishman and massive sympathy more so as a sportsman.

"No sportsman should have to make that decision. That's it, straightforward - nobody at 23 years of age should be asked to make that decision.

"And the reality is there've been people in politics for the last hundred years who have tried to negotiate that and haven't been able to. So why would you ask a 23-year-old just because he's going to hit a little white golf ball?

Unfortunate

"It's very unfortunate and I think it is unfortunate in the sense that it means a great deal for golf for him to play.

"It's a very big deal because golf (not part of the Games for over a century) is only on a trial period in the Olympics.

"We have two runs at it and we do, as golfers, have to perform and put our best foot forward, so it would be nice if the world number one is there and he's supporting the event.

"It's an extraordinarily difficult decision. We need our best players to play in the Olympics to show that golf is serious in the Olympics.

"There's going to be no winner out of this one whatever."