Ronald Fletcher Baker successfully represents a prominent football agent

At a hearing held in June 2017 under the Football Association Rules, Ronald Fletcher Baker’s sports department, was instructed by a prominent football intermediary in his claim against an international football player for unpaid agency fees. Ronald Fletcher Baker was successful in representing a prominent football intermediary in his FA Rule K Arbitration.

Factual background

The Claimant is a prominent FA registered intermediary and the Respondent is an international football player. On or around October 2014, the Claimant and the Respondent entered into a representation contract (the “Contract”) on an exclusive basis, compliant with the then prevailing FA Football Agents Regulations. The term of the Contract was for two years until October 2016. On or around July 2016, the Respondent signed an employment contract with a Football League Club without using the services of the Claimant or informing of him this event - thus depriving the Claimant of commission. Furthermore, the Respondent approached and thereafter signed a representation contract with another intermediary whilst still under contract to the Claimant.

The Respondent alleged in his defence that the Claimant had failed to provide the services or, in other words, find a club for the player. Furthermore, he alleged that the Claimant had misrepresented the term of the Contract (i.e. 2 years rather than 1 year). Lastly, the Respondent alleged that the Claimant had coerced him into signing the Contract.

Jurisdiction

Although the Respondent challenged the Contract on various grounds, the Contract explicitly stated that any dispute shall be referred to arbitration under Rule K of the FA Rules. Both parties acknowledged this and proceeded on such basis.

Award

The FA Arbitral Tribunal in handing down its Award, confirmed that the Claimant’s claim had succeeded in full. Dismissing the Respondent’s case, the Tribunal ruled that the footballer’s defences (of misrepresentation, duress, and a failure to provide services) were not borne out by the evidence, and that there was no reason to depart from the terms of the Contract itself.

FA Rule K Arbitration

FA Rule K Arbitrations are legally sanctioned alternative dispute resolution proceedings (under the Arbitration Act), and are recognised in law as being a way to resolve disputes without going to court. Under Rule K both parties get to choose their own arbitrator, and the aim is to have a hearing within six months or so after proceedings being issued. Generally, this is far quicker than court proceedings and far cheaper as well. Furthermore, the outcome of Rule K proceedings are, as a rule, not open to public scrutiny.

It is worth noting the recent High Court case involving the Swansea striker, Wilfried Bony and two former football agents that he successfully sued. At the preliminary hearing, the agents tried to halt the litigation in Bony's case against them, insisting the dispute had to be resolved behind closed doors, before an arbitration panel under the aegis of the Football Association (i.e Rule K). None of the written agreements Bony signed with the agents or their companies made reference to the FA's arbitration procedures and he was entitled to proceed with his case in the High Court, the judge ruled.

Comment

The Bony decision should be a valuable lesson for all football intermediaries. Unless parties contract between themselves to submit to FA Rule K, they have not submitted to it under the Arbitration Act – and courts will not order a stay pending Rule K arbitration, but will accept jurisdiction. This has obvious implications in relation to costs as Rule K arbitration will almost certainly be speedier and more time efficient than drawn out litigation via a civil court or up to FIFA and beyond.

The sports team operate from the firm’s London, Manchester and Istanbul offices. We work with FA registered intermediaries, Premier League and Football League clubs in matters concerning corporate acquisitions, contentious and non-contentious issues, employment, immigration, players’ contracts and regulatory matters.

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