A round up of recent football case lawNick De Marco QC
In this round up we highlight some interesting football cases to have taken place during the first quarter of 2015. All of these cases, whether the hearings were held in court or private arbitrations/disciplinary hearings, have public judgments, and we attach the hyperlink to the full judgments of each case.
 EWHC 298 (QB), 16 February 2015
Spurs were found to have breached their duty of care to a young player who suffered a cardiac arrest after the club’s doctor mistakenly recorded that he was fit to train and play whilst a cardiologist had said he may have a possible underlying cardiac condition. The club was 70% negligent and the cardiologist was 30% negligent (for failing to follow up on his recommendation for a clinical review). The case is an important reminder to football clubs of their duty of care to players particularly where they may have notice of some underlying health condition. Damages have yet to be assessed but are thought to run into millions of pounds.
 EWHC 376 (QB), 19 February 2015
The High Court dismissed a claim for wrongful dismissal by Mr Williams, the former Technical Director of Leeds United FC. Mr Williams was dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2013 following the discovery that he had in March 2008 forwarded a football-themed (but sexually explicit) email attachment to a former colleague (Dennis Wise, at that time of Newcastle United). The Court held that Mr Williams had committed gross misconduct, and that the club was entitled to accept his repudiatory breach of contract notwithstanding that it was discovered five years later, at a time when Mr Williams and the club were in dispute over the length of notice to which he was entitled having just been selected for redundancy. The Judge also held that the club was entitled to justify the dismissal by reference to evidence, discovered only after Mr Williams’ dismissal, that he had also sent the offensive attachment to a further male former colleague (Gus Poyet) outside the club, and to a receptionist at the club.
Fraser Campbell of Blackstone Chambers (instructed by Brandsmiths) appeared for Leeds United FC.
Football Disciplinary Commission, 27 February 2015
A Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC) fined Reading the sum of £30,000, but suspended the fine, after the club admitted a breach of Football League regulations prohibiting dual interests. Reading had borrowed over £10m from a company called Vibrac which also lent sums to Premier League clubs. The FL’s Regulations prohibited a club from borrowing any sums from an institution not in the ordinary course of banking if that institution also lent sums to other football clubs, even if in different leagues. The case demonstrates how stringent the FL Regulations on dual interests can be, but also shows the FDC is prepared to be recognise a club’s mitigating circumstances and co-operation with its enquiries where it made an innocent mistake, and not apply an overly harsh sanction.
Nick De Marco of Blackstone Chambers (instructed by Field Seymour Parkes LLP) acted for Reading FC.
 EWCA Civ 206, 12 March 2015
It was not a requirement of the statutory tort of harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 19975 that the claimant be a target of the perpetrator’s conduct – a club owner and club published personal attacks on Mr Levi which included references to his home address and invitations to fans to phone him up. Mrs Levi was not “targeted” by the conduct but was victim of it and thus entitled to damages (but not an injunction).
FA Rule K Arbitral Panel, 23 February 215, decision published 16 March 2015
An FA Rule K Arbitral Panel set aside (on procedural fairness grounds) the decision of the FA Council to reject the Club’s application to change its playing name from Hull City to Hull Tigers for season 2014/2015. The Panel did not remit the matter to the FA Council, and the Club remains Hull City. The Club is able to apply anew to change its name for season 2015/2016.
Adam Lewis QC (instructed by Charles Russell) acted for the FA and Nick De Marco also of Blackstone Chambers (led by Nicholas Randall QC, and instructed by Brabners) represented Hull City.
See here for an article on the case written by Nicholas Randall QC and Nick De Marco published by LawInSport.7
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- Tags: Commercial Law | Contract Law | Corporate Law | Dispute Resolution | Employment Law | England | Football | Football Disciplinary Commission | Football League | High Court | Negligence | Premier League | Protection from Harassment Act 1997 | The FA | United Kingdom (UK)
- Hull City Tigers v The FA - the importance of procedural fairness
- Protecting English football’s heritage: Hull City v Hull Tigers - Entry A
- Key sports law cases and developments to watch in 2015
- A guide to England’s Independent Football Ombudsman
About the Author
Nick is rated a leading silk in Sports Law and is a member of Blackstone Chambers.
He has advised and acted for a number of sports governing bodies, athletes, most Premier League football clubs and many world-class football players in commercial and regulatory disputes.