Blackburn Rovers face humiliation over sacking of Henning Berg

Troubled club set to be forced to pay sacked manager £2m next week in High Court case

Ian Herbert
Thursday 21 March 2013 00:33 GMT
Blackburn Rovers are braced for the humiliation of being ordered by the High Court to pay up money they owe Henning Berg
Blackburn Rovers are braced for the humiliation of being ordered by the High Court to pay up money they owe Henning Berg (Getty Images)

Blackburn Rovers are braced for the humiliation of being ordered by the High Court to pay up money they owe Henning Berg, one of the three managers forced out of the club this season.

As pressure grows on the game's governing bodies to investigate the shambolic demise of Rovers and insist that the club's Indian owners Venky's appoint professionals to run Ewood Park, Blackburn face a summary judgment at the High Court next Thursday over an alleged breach of contract after failing to pay Berg the money owed after his 56-day managerial reign was terminated in December.

Berg, who one source suggests is due around £2m, is confident enough of success in the case to seek to short-circuit a full hearing and apply for the judgment, which a judge will permit if Rovers' defence is considered to be bound to fail. Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, which is pursuing the case for the Norwegian, said: "Blackburn will feel the force of the law in the High Court next week."

Rovers face the decision of whether to settle out of court or endure the one-day hearing, which will be held if Berg is considered to have a 65-70 per cent chance of success, where the Championship club will find their way of doing business being aired publicly. Berg's successor, Michael Appleton, was sacked on Tuesday after the return to Blackburn of the club's "global adviser" Shebby Singh, for whom the players are now understood to be displaying open scepticism. Singh was not at the Brockhall training ground as Gary Bowyer – restored to the caretaker position he held before managing director Derek Shaw secured the permission of the club's owners to appoint Appleton without Singh's backing – took training.

Back in training was 36-year-old Danny Murphy, whose services were secured by Singh in the summer on a two-year deal, worth up to £45,000 a week, with an option to extend for a year. The contract was a source of surprise within football.

Players of Murphy's age are generally signed on low, short-term, highly incentivised deals. Appleton felt that Murphy was not delivering enough to the side and had dropped him, though Bowyer's elevation to the helm may now see the former Liverpool and Fulham player back in the first team.

It is a sign of the desperate pursuit of the few league managers' jobs available in football that CVs have already started coming in from individuals seeking the Blackburn post, though Bevan told The Independent that the "embarrassing" toll of sackings – 103 jobs lost in 2012-13 when coaching staff are taken into account – was turning managers into "sub-contractors." Many managers "feel they are not employed," Bevan said. "That's why they can cope with regular sacking. With this blatant disregard of employment law we are undermining managers, why would they want to become a manager when 60 per cent of first-time managers never work again after their first job?"

Appleton became the 32nd manager to be dismissed this season when he was sacked by letter after 15 games and 67 days at Blackburn. Gary Smith took the tally to 33 when he was dismissed by League One Stevenage. A total of 14 managers have resigned from their posts, while another 60 coaches have also been dismissed, the LMA said. "That's over 100 people, 100 managers, 100 families," Bevan declared. "I don't know where the arrogance comes from where we don't have to behave like any other industry."

Regardless of the general managerial problem, Blackburn appear to be a law unto themselves and utterly unwilling to enter into any meaningful communication with any outsiders. The Independent's calls to Singh were unreturned again. Bevan wants the Football Association and the Football League to step in, though there does not seem to be any impetus to do so. The FA feels it is the League's duty.

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