On 10 March 2016, a Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal gave an award in favour of Crystal Palace Football Club, in a claim brought by the Club against its former manager, Mr Tony Pulis, relating to his sudden departure from the Club in August 2014, and the events leading up to that departure.
The Tribunal found that Mr Pulis had deceived the Club into paying him a £2,000,000 bonus early, by making false representations that he was happy and committed to the Club, and that he had an urgent need of the money to buy land for his children, when in reality he wanted the money early so he could leave the Club to seek more lucrative employment elsewhere, and there was no such land transaction. It also found that he had repudiated his contract of employment with the Club by refusing to manage the first game of the season. The Tribunal ordered Mr Pulis to pay the Club £3,776,000 in damages: £2,226,000 for deceit, in respect of the bonus (including the tax paid by the Club in respect of it), and £1,500,000 in liquidated damages for leaving to join another club. In a subsequent award, it ordered Mr Pulis to pay interest and costs.
Mr Pulis challenged these awards in the High Court under section 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996, on the basis that the Tribunal had allegedly failed to consider certain evidence regarding the date of a meeting, and certain submissions relating to the tax element of the bonus. Following a hearing on 17 November 2016, Sir Michael Burton gave judgment the next day rejecting this challenge and granting the Club’s application to enforce the awards in full. The Court emphasised that the nature of the section 68 jurisdiction was “designed as a long-stop available only in extreme cases where the Tribunal has gone so wrong in its conduct of the arbitration that justice calls out for it to be corrected”. The Judge held that the Tribunal had not failed to consider the matters alleged in a way which engaged section 68, and that in any event there had been no substantial injustice in this case. In relation to liability the Judge noted that, whatever Mr Pulis had to say about the evidence relating to his commitment to the Club, he did not and could not challenge the findings in relation to his fraudulent statements relating to the land transaction. As to quantum, it was clear that further consideration of the arguments on tax would make no difference to the result.
The full judgment can be read here.
Ian Mill QC and David Lowe acted for Crystal Palace FC in the Arbitration and before the High Court.