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The Number - whose ads featuring two moustachioed 1970s-style runners have been elevated to cult status - are facing legal action from former British athlete David Bedford.

Mr Bedford has written to the directory enquiries (DQ) outfit demanding compensation after he alleged that The Number had ripped off his image without his permission.

A spokesman for The Number confirmed that legal letters had been exchanged but stated that it had not been served with a writ.

"The allegations are ridiculous," the spokesman told The Register. "We did not model the image [of the joggers] on David Bedford."

Instead, he explained that The Number wanted a "1970s retro style" and actually loosely based its characters on Steve Prefontaine - the US athlete who died in 1975.

The spokesman added that many sportsmen - including footballers - sprouted facial hair and wore their hair long in the 1970s. ®

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