The heart of the case revolved around the resignations of the former Joint Managers Robert Scott and Paul Hurst of Boston United FC (Boston) and their swift appointment as Joint Managers of Grimsby Town FC (Grimsby).
One may question where the legal argument is. From the face of it, it appears quite normal to leave one job for another. However, at the time of resignation Scott and Hurst were under contract via a contract of employment with Boston. Within that contract laid important clauses which Scott, Hurst and Grimsby did not comply with.
These were two-fold, firstly there was a requirement for Scott and Hurt to pay compensation (a defined pre-estimate of losses as opposed to a penalty clause) to Boston if they left the club before the expiration of their contract and secondly it was a requirement for any prospective employer/club to seek permission first from Boston to speak with Scott and Hurst.
What in fact happened, Scott and Hurst with the aide of their ‘un-named agent’ entered into negotiations with Grimsby, without the knowledge of Boston and which led them to secure new positions. Not only had Scott and Hurst attended interviews with Grimsby, with the help of the ‘un-named agent’ remuneration packages were discussed along with other terms.
All of this happened prior to Grimsby requesting permission from Boston and negotiations continued even when permission was not granted. Without having regard to Boston, Scott and Hurst entered into new agreements with Grimsby which was found to be a clear breach of their contract with Boston.
The mere fact that Scott and Hurst handed in their resignations did not on its own make them valid. The resignations had to be accepted by Boston.
Although Grimsby were not a party to the contract between Scott, Hurst and Boston, the judge found that they were reckless in their conduct as a professional club and found to have induced the breach of contract.
The message is clear from this case, prospective clubs wishing to appoint new managers/players should not solely rely upon the information provided by an agent. To avoid unnecessary rifts and breaches of contracts, they should approach the club direct and seek permission before moving any further. If permission is not granted they should either wait until the manager/player is no longer under contract or walk away from the transaction.
The judge found that Boston’s Chairman, David Newton had conducted himself in an honest and transparent manner which was a persuasive factor in Boston succeeding in their claim against all three defendants.