Blackburn Rovers slammed as 'woeful' and 'unforgivable' by judge in Henning Berg pay dispute

Club lambasted in court as ‘unforgivable’ after late U-turn over paying the contract of their former manager

The farcical way Blackburn Rovers are run was laid bare in a court of law when the club were pilloried by a presiding judge who described their way of operating as “utterly unforgivable,” as they launched a last-minute fight to stop sacked manager Henning Berg being awarded £2.2m in unpaid wages.

Having initially agreed to meet Berg’s demands for the payment of his three-year contract in full, Rovers revealed at a High Court hearing that they had changed their minds, by filing papers after a pre-agreed deadline in a way Judge Mark Pilling said was “woefully inadequate” and “entirely contrary to the way justice is supposed to be served”.

The club’s principal owner, Anuradha Desai, has hired new solicitors who, the court heard, will now claim that the club’s managing  director, Derek Shaw, had no authority to give 43-year-old Berg – who was sacked after 56 days in December – a contract entitling him to such lucrative severance terms, rather than the one-year of pay she sanctioned. The court, sitting in Manchester, heard Shaw is now at the centre of disciplinary proceedings instigated by Desai, for defying her orders.

But Desai’s claim that Shaw had no authority is deeply undermined by a press release – still accessible on the Rovers’ website last night – which claimed earlier this month that Shaw has the “complete backing and  support” of the owners and that there was “no investigation” into the Berg contract.

The club claimed in court that the press release, entitled “Owners respond to Berg rumours” and issued by the club’s press department on Shaw’s orders, was “not true”.

A disciplinary letter, fundamental to Desai’s lawyers’ new case, was sent 24 hours before the press statement and directly contradicts it, the judge said.

The initial Shaw disciplinary process was hamstrung by another hitch to the running of the club: Rovers' "global adviser" Shebby Singh had been unable to obtain a travel visa quickly enough to return to Blackburn to tackle Shaw. Singh and Shaw's power struggle has been the principal reason why Berg and Michael Appleton have been sacked in quick succession, during a wretched season.

Judge Pilling left Rovers in little doubt that they are likely to fail in their attempts to defeat Berg's action, details of which were revealed by The Independent last month. He did grant the club's barristers the chance to argue, at a later hearing, that Berg's contract is not binding because Shaw lacked the authority to offer it. But the judge also concluded that the case was "borderline arguable" and said: "I've come close to dismissing this application out of hand but I'm just persuaded [to allow it]." The owners' case was "contradicted" by the website press release, he said.

Yet it was also the manner of the 11th-hour change of course by Desai's lawyers which infuriated the judge, who said it was "guaranteed just to waste time and money". Only late on Monday did the club's new solicitors lodge a draft application to withdraw the initial agreement to pay Berg in full. The application discussed the inclusion of a witness statement supporting the club's case, though no witness statement was attached. After close of business hours on Monday, an unsigned witness statement was sent. Yet another, signed version of the witness statement presented to the court differed from the original one. The club's barrister, Neil Berragan, said that the delay stemmed from the need of the club's owners to discuss the case with their solicitors.

The club's attempts to prevent Berg securing the full £2.2m will depend on their lawyers making the case that the former Rovers player and his agent should have known that the owners – not the managing director – held the ultimate authority. Shaw appeared to have further undermined that position by taking the decision to pay Berg an initial £562,500, though the court heard that he did so without informing Desai. His thinking was he "might as well do it and ease her into it gently". Berg is still owed £1.6m gross.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower