Iain Dowie became the manager of Charlton Athletic yesterday and was immediately issued with a writ by his former employer Simon Jordan, the Crystal Palace chairman, alleging that Dowie had lied about his reasons for leaving Selhurst Park.
Just as Dowie and the Charlton chairman Richard Murray were getting comfortable, a court official stormed into the press room and began waving the writ, shouting: "Mr Dowie, I have a writ to serve on you on behalf of Crystal Palace Football Club... for fraudulent misrepresentation in the terms of leaving Crystal Palace." The man was ejected before he could formally serve Dowie the papers, fulfilling his obligation later.
Jordan is furious. He claims that Dowie told him he wanted to return to the North to be with his family. Therefore Jordan, in a show of empathy, claims he waived his right to £1m in compensation.
"My football club waived compensation because the man said he wanted to go back to the North," Jordan said. "He specifically told me when I asked him before the Palace press conference that he wasn't going to go to Charlton because of his relationship with Palace and the credibility he would lose.
"There is a law in this country called misrepresentation and Iain has breached it," Jordan added.
Dowie responded that it was his desire for a "new challenge" that had led him away from SE25 and that he had never used his family as the main reason for leaving. He said: "The family has been a problem but there were loads of other things. I've got an agreement at home which says it was by mutual consent and I can live with myself. I don't know what grounds they [Palace] are serving it on."
Legally, "Jordan must prove that Dowie knew he was going to Charlton before he convinced Jordan to waiver the compensation clause", says Andrew Chamberlain from the solicitors Addleshaw Goddard. And that might be difficult as the former Oldham manager claims he was contacted by Charlton only after his Palace contract officially terminated.
"I thought it was a joke," Murray said. "Simon has always been rather envious of Charlton because we have had the success he has been striving for, with a wonderful stadium which we own."
The action seems set to continue and could run for two or three months at least. A nuisance for the new manager, if nothing else.
The incident completely overshadowed what should have been a positive day for Murray and Charlton. Dowie, who will relocate to South London, will head a four-man management team with Les Reed his assistant and Mark Robson the head of development. General manager Andrew Mills will assist Murray with contracts and transfers.
Dowie was optimistic and positive, describing Charlton as a "go-ahead" club with big ambitions and good players. "It's a great move for me. I'm aiming for the top half of the table and a European place," he said.
Jordan and his managers
August 2000: Replaced after Jordan bought Palace
April 2001: Sacked with the club facing relegation
November 2001: Resigned to take over at Birmingham City. A High Court injunction forced Bruce into gardening leave for nine months
April 2003: Sacked after an unsuccessful spell
November 2003: Sacked despite prior suggestions of a job for life at Palace