West Ham United tried to sue Alan Curbishley for £2m – the initial cost of replacing him with Gianfranco Zola – it emerged yesterday after the former Hammers manager won his case for constructive dismissal.
The compensation payout for Curbishley is yet to be decided by the Premier League tribunal but he is expected to be paid around £2m. Curbishley resigned on 3 September last year after the club sold Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney against his wishes.
West Ham's lawyers attempted to prove that Curbishley had left them in the lurch by resigning and as a result he was in breach of his contract. That they failed miserably is another victory for the League Managers' Association in asserting the rights of their members to have the terms of their contracts properly adhered to.
The case – decided by the three-man panel of Sir Philip Otton, David Phillips QC and Edwin Glasgow QC – was understood to be even more black and white than Kevin Keegan's victory over Mike Ashley. Like Keegan, Curbishley resigned over the club's failure to give him final say over transfers.
However, while Keegan's tribunal established that his right to control transfers was "implied". Curbishley had that authority as one of the "express terms" written into his contract: clause 4(1)(a) expressly stipulated that he alone was in charge of the transfers of the players.
Curbishley said: "I am obviously delighted with this result. I very much enjoyed my time at West Ham and never wanted to leave, but on joining the club I insisted that my contract contained a clause confirming that I would have final say on the selection of players to be transferred to and from the club.
"The club completely ignored my contract when selling Anton Ferdinand, and when George McCartney was then sold, the club having given me assurances that no players would be leaving the club after the sale of Anton Ferdinand, I had no alternative but to resign. My authority and integrity were undermined and my position was made untenable."
A number of West Ham officials, including the chief executive Scott Duxbury, gave evidence to the tribunal which also found that the club had failed to follow basic procedures laid out in Curbishley's contract. A statement from the tribunal read: "The executive directors erroneously attempted to override the manager's contractual right by selling the players against his wishes."