Wigan payment ends Gregory tribunal case

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The Independent Online

Wigan have reached a settlement with their illness-stricken former coach, Mike Gregory. The club have agreed to pay £17,500 to Gregory, who was taking them to an employment tribunal claiming aggravated damages over their handling of his disability.

The 41-year-old former Great Britain captain was appointed Wigan coach in November 2003, but was off work from the following May until his contract expired last October.

Wigan say that he has motor neurone disease, although Gregory, who attended the hearing in Manchester yesterday in a wheelchair, and his family still dispute that diagnosis.

The owner of the club, Dave Whelan, described yesterday's payment as "purely a goodwill gesture".

"We've dealt with Mike with great respect and great sympathy," Whelan said. "We feel we've done nothing wrong. We've been honourable and I'm delighted that we're not putting him through any more stress."

The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, said that he had no desire to see Gregory cross-examined through a nine-day hearing.

"It was taking up a lot of everyone's time and would put Mike through incredible stress," he said.

Gregory himself said in a statement read by his solicitor that he still believed that he could have returned to work after the Challenge Cup final in 2004. "I have been treated shabbily by Wigan," he said.

Gregory's wife, Erica, disputed the club's claim that it had treated him honourably. "We don't believe they've acted honourably," she said. "Mike would have been able to return to work and was barred from the job. Mike has progressive muscular atrophy. We are still working with our medical advisers and can now put this behind us. It's been a drain and we shouldn't have been put through it. It could have been dealt with in a more intelligent and compassionate manner."

She said that they felt "vindicated" by a settlement that matched payments made in the most serious cases of disability discrimination. "It has never been about the money.It has been a matter of principle."

The chairman of the panel convened to hear the case, David Leahy, called Gregory "a national hero" as he announced that a settlement had been reached.

Lindsay described the case as "a cloud that has been hanging over the club for two years".

"It did interrupt the club's progress," he said. "We now have to start returning to normal rugby league and see where we can go."

Wigan slumped to next to last in Super League with their latest defeat - the fifth in six games - at Castleford on Sunday. They have lost two more players to injury: Scott Logan has a fractured cheekbone, Harrison Han-sen has fractured an ankle.