Chelsea to sue Mutu for £8m after landmark Premier League ruling

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chelsea were yesterday given unprecedented backing by the Premier League to sue Adrian Mutu for the drugs offence that cost him his contract at Stamford Bridge. A three-man independent Appeals Committee, appointed by the League, ruled that Mutu was effectively sacked by himself, rather than by the club, for taking cocaine.

Chelsea were yesterday given unprecedented backing by the Premier League to sue Adrian Mutu for the drugs offence that cost him his contract at Stamford Bridge. A three-man independent Appeals Committee, appointed by the League, ruled that Mutu was effectively sacked by himself, rather than by the club, for taking cocaine.

The judgement clears the way for Chelsea to seek financial damages from Mutu, or more likely his new employers, Juventus, via the Dispute Resolution Chamber of Fifa, football's world governing body.

It is not unique for a club to sack a player for misconduct but Chelsea's stance of sacking then suing is a landmark case.

The Committee said: "The conduct of the player... was gross misconduct which entitled the club to treat the player's contract as at an end and amounted to a unilateral breach without just cause or sporting just cause."

Mutu, 26, who was sacked in October for taking cocaine, is serving a seven-month worldwide ban that expires on 18 May but joined Juventus in January on a five-year contract. Chelsea bought Mutu for £15.8m from Parma in August 2003 and have consistently argued they are due compensation for his actions.

If Chelsea are successful in claiming the £8m they are reportedly seeking, an extraordinary precedent will be set for any club to sack a wayward player and then sue him.

The notion of players' contracts as sacrosanct could become a thing of the past, and hiring and firing could become a legal minefield if clubs start to use behavioural issues as a means to making a player redundant, or even, taken to the logical extreme, profiting from that.

Such a trend would probably be supported by those who feel that standards of behaviour in the game are falling and that fines available to clubs for misconduct are meaningless to millionaire players.

Yet legal experts do not believe that the Committee's judgement will actually lead to success for Chelsea. "My view is the case is likely to fail when it gets to Fifa level," said Chris Synnott, a lawyer with the Simkins Partnership who has worked on many football-related cases. "Chelsea would have to prove their loss, and that could be difficult when they've saved on his salary. And I cannot see how Juventus can be liable for any damages."

Synnott added that Chelsea "are trying to have their cake and eat it" by using contractual clauses - designed to promote player stability - to argue that Mutu made his own career unstable.

In a statement released in response to the Committee's decision, Chelsea said: "Chelsea Football Club is obviously pleased that the Appeals Committee has vindicated the club's position and opened the door for a compensation claim and sporting sanctions before Fifa's Dispute Resolution Chamber. Chelsea will continue to pursue the case vigorously as the principle is an important one."

After sacking Mutu, Chelsea said the player's actions had forced them to write off £13m in lost transfer value and wages. Following a Football Association hearing in November, Mutu was fined £20,000 and suspended from all football for seven months.

Chelsea were anxious to block Mutu signing for another club on a free transfer at the end of his suspension, but in January he signed for Juventus anyway and has been training with the Italian club since then. Chelsea will now instruct their lawyers to prepare a case to be heard by Fifa.

The Committee, which the Premier League stressed yesterday had acted independently, was comprised of David Dent, a former secretary of the Football League, Brendan Batson, the former deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, and Robert Reid, QC. Their judgement rested on the strict legal interpretation of the terms of Mutu's contract, and particularly the clauses relating to the maintenance of contractual stability.

If Chelsea are unsuccessful in the next stage of their legal battle, they are likely to take the matter to civil courts, which could lead to a lengthy, uncertain case.

Sven Goran Eriksson, meanwhile, believes it is impossible to choose between Mutu's former team-mates Frank Lampard and John Terry as player of the year. "Who would I vote for? Honestly, I couldn't pick one above the other" the England coach said. "Seriously, I would share the award this year."

Comments