Employment Law and Match of the Day

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Employment Law and Match of the Day

Employment Law and Match of The Day
There I was on Sunday night happily lapping up the Confederations Cup football on Match of The Day on the BBC when I saw my favourite interest outside of work (football) conveniently cross into the main topic of my job – employment law. Gus Poyet Manager of Brighton & Hove Albion FC (or so he thought at the time) and pundit for the evening’s game of Spain v Nigeria was told that he had been dismissed from his job live on air. Mr Poyet found this out by being handed a print out from Brighton & Hove Albion FC’s official website by BBC staff stating that he had been sacked and to rub salt into the wounds that he had been informed of his dismissal. Mr Poyet denied he had been informed of the decision beforehand.
Whilst clearly upset and shocked to be informed in this way I personally thought Mr Poyet handled the news in a very professional and dignified manner. He confirmed he would be utilising his right of appeal and said until that process was over he couldn’t discuss the matter. He confirmed he would be consulting further with his lawyers who incidentally had clearly done a very good job of briefing Mr Poyet – it would have been easy for him in the heat of the moment to say something which could later harm his case but he refused to be drawn into the matter and calmly reiterated that until his appeal was over he couldn’t say anymore.
Mr Poyet and two of his backroom coaching staff had been suspended since Brighton’s last game of the season – a defeat in the Championship’s play-off semi-finals to Crystal Palace for an unspecified disciplinary offence. Both Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Mr Poyet had not revealed any details of the nature of the allegations against him and his backroom staff.
The story gathered pace when on Monday morning Brighton & Hove Albion FC released a further statement stating that Mr Poyet was aware of the decision prior to it being published on their website.
From an Employment Law perspective it would appear that the club has taken this process seriously and is following case law as to a fair process. Mr Poyet was suspended for an unspecified disciplinary offence. An investigation took place whilst Mr Poyet was suspended and then he was invited to appear before a disciplinary hearing last week to answer the allegations (he did not attend the meeting). I can only imagine Mr Poyet elected to present a written statement rather than failing to answer the allegations at all. In fact if Mr Poyet did not attend the meeting and failed to offer any written submissions – it is hardly surprising he has been dismissed. Mr Poyet has been offered a right of appeal – so I have to say that so far from the facts released it appears Brighton & Hove Albion FC have followed the letter of the law. More details will surely be released following the appeal hearing including the reasons for the disciplinary which would allow me to comment more fully on the process undertaken.
One point worth mentioning here is the statutory cap in unfair dismissal claims. The maximum basic award is £13500 (which Mr Poyet wouldn’t qualify for anyway as he has only been employed for 3.5 years) and the maximum compensatory award is £74200. Therefore it is not common for managers to bring unfair dismissal claims as the compensation they can recover is relatively small compared to their wage. A more common route followed by managers is to bring a breach of contract claim against the club – meaning if successful the manager would recover their full wage for the remainder of their contract. A recent example of this was Henning Berg who successfully won a breach of contract claim against Blackburn Rovers who dismissed him 57 days into a 3.5 year contract.
Ian Abel
Head of Employment

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