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Will it be a legal ‘red card’ for Blackburn Rovers?

25 March 2013

This week sees the High Court hearing Henning Berg’s claim against his former club, Blackburn Rovers, for unpaid wages.

It follows Michael Appleton’s sacking from his position as manager of the same club last week, after just 67 days in the job. Berg enjoyed a similar fate prior to Appleton, having been sacked in December after 57 days in charge. Blackburn have now had five managers this season alone.

Appleton was sacked by a man he had never met, and without the knowledge of the club’s managing director, Derek Shaw. During his 67 days at Ewood Park, Appleton did not exchange a single word with global advisor Shebby Singh until last Tuesday morning, the day he discovered he was no longer required.

The woes of premiership football managers provide constant fodder for the tabloid media. However this particular sorry tale raises a couple of interesting legal points as well.

Even though Singh is not a statutory director of the club, he would have had ‘ostensible authority’ in Appleton’s eyes to dismiss him, even though the managing director was unaware. By giving Singh the status of ‘global advisor’, the club gave him the ability to commit it to legal obligations. Many companies give senior managers a ‘director’ job title even though they are not legally registered as such at Companies House. By doing so, they give those staff the ability to create legal obligations which can be relied upon by third parties. Those individuals might also inherit the personal legal obligations which are carried by statutory directors.

Neither Berg nor Appleton would have been able to sue the club for unfair dismissal, due to their short period of tenure, even though they were both fired without any prior warning or due process. Berg’s only recourse was to try and recover the unpaid wages which were due to him. Since last April, employees only acquire unfair dismissal protection after two years’ employment. Blackburn has been able to take advantage of this, but has suffered the consequences in terms of adverse publicity.

For more information please contact our employment law team. 

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Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
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Mathew Clayton
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