Blackburn Rovers are facing imminent legal action over money owing to sacked manager Michael Appleton, after a High Court judge ordered them to pay his predecessor Henning Berg £40,000 a day – a larger amount than the earnings of the highest paid Premier League player – for his 57-day tenure which secured the Championship club six points.
Berg will receive £2.25m – which equates to £39,473 a day – after Judge Mark Pelling yesterday threw out the court case which has heaped humiliation on Blackburn. The judge dismissed as "unarguable" their claim that managing director Derek Shaw was a maverick with no authority to agree to Berg's lucrative severance terms, also ordering the club to pay £20,000 for bringing the case.
The Independent understands that Rovers are seven days away from being pursued through the courts over the non-payment of compensation to Appleton – who lasted just 10 days longer as Rovers manager than Berg. Appleton is understood to be awaiting written confirmation of the termination agreement from Rovers, who sacked him after 15 games in charge. If the club fail to agree terms with the 37-year-old, the League Managers' Association (LMA) will take action.
Berg, who won one of his 10 games in charge, said in a statement issued through the LMA last night that he had "no option" but to take action against the club but Richard Bevan, chief executive of the LMA also said the Football League needed to "take a long hard look" at the judgement and a case which has dragged the name of the club and football through the courts. The LMA believes that the League has a duty under its constitution to ensure the proper and professional conduct of its clubs and prevent them bringing the sport into disrepute.
The Football League would not comment publicly on the LMA's remarks last night but its position is that it is unable to intervene once owners have been judged to be fit to take over a club and that it could face legal action by doing so.
Blackburn owners, Venky's, did not comment on the court's findings last night, though their so-called "global adviser" Shebby Singh did respond by email on the narrow issue of evidence, heard in court, about how he had been unable to get access to Britain to discipline or challenge Shaw because he did not have a visa. The judge asked why Singh could not at least have emailed or faxed a witness statement to court, corroborating evidence that disciplinary proceedings with Shaw had been instigated, which would have validated the club's claims that the MD had "gone rogue". Singh did not answer this in his email, stating simply that "as a Malaysian citizen employed in India by the Venky's" he had secured an Indian work permit.
The judge's dismissal of Rovers' case raised fresh questions about the state of the club's finances, when it emerged that the £2.25m owing to Berg could not initially be paid in full "because of cash flow difficulties caused by the relegation of Blackburn from the Premier League to the Championship at the end of the 2011-12 season."
The court hearing shed no light on how Shaw could have offered a contract with such lucrative severance terms to Berg, an out-of-work manager who had initiated contact with Rovers, seeking the manager's job. One explanation may be the simple lack of legal expertise at Ewood Park, where the staff infrastructure has been reduced.
Once he had signed off the deal, Shaw signed a court deposition that stated: "I admit liability for the claim and offer to pay £2,250,000." It was only at a court hearing scheduled to decide whether Rovers should be given time to pay that Judge Pelling was told that they wanted to withdraw that admission.
Costly case: Berg in numbers
£2.25m: Amount Blackburn have been told to pay former manager Berg
57: Number of days Berg was in charge of Blackburn
10: The Norwegian was manager at Ewood Park for just 10 games
£20,000: Additional costs the club have been ordered to pay
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