WALK ON

There are few things make my blood boil more than clubs trying to renege on their contractual obligations, onerous or otherwise.
Any contract signed by either player or manager is agreed with the intention of fulfilling the terms. I have NEVER known a player or coach to sign a contract whilst harbouring thoughts of breaking it. Clubs are quick to try and find any way possible of doing anything they can to try and minimise compensation payouts or “persuade” a player to leave when it suits. That, whilst understandable in certain scenarios, is in my opinion a far more onerous practice, than the terms and conditions of ANY contract.

Ally McCoist’s contract situation and the now subsequent resignation has been the subject of much cantankering and, with the ongoing soap opera at the club, is without question a complicated issue, however, one thing you can be certain of, is the contract that was agreed by all parties is legally binding and no amount of public chest puffing will gain either side the moral high ground.

Morality

Fans would do well to remember that in football, morality is a scarce commodity. Almost everyone looks after number one and in tendering his resignation, Ally McCoist is no different. The biggest contrast here though is that there is now a huge, public game of ‘Call My Bluff’ being played, and Ally has played the first card. You can be absolutely certain that in doing so, he has fulfilled to the letter the conditions of the contract, because when you are protecting your pay off, and make no mistake about it, that is what is happening here, it is crucial to do everything, legally, by the book.

Clubs in better financial positions than Rangers, will pounce on ANY possible breach of contract in order to avoid a compensation payout. This is the reason why you hear the horror stories about out-of-favour players, or high earners who the club want to move on, being made to train on their own, or with the youths. They will make up excuses about a players lack of fitness, or needing extra technical work in order to justify the extra sessions. The reality is they are doing it in the hope that the player either throws in the towel, or gets so frustrated he is driven to doing something in breach of club discipline. Both of these scenarios, gleefully from the clubs point of view, result in a reduced – or in the case of gross misconduct – nullified pay off. You can be assured the Ibrox board will be scrutinising both the contract AND the behaviour to see if anything can be done to mitigate their liability.

Reality

From a fans perspective, there are side issues which complicate matters. The perilous financial position of the club has led for calls for Ally to do the so-called “honourable” thing and “walk away” for nothing. A predictable view, but a romantic one with very little basis, as it is highly unlikely ANYONE would walk away from a lucrative £800k pay off (a figure I have no way of verifying but it seems to be the generally accepted amount). Particularly when he has seen all manner of waifs and strays walk off with pockets bulging larger than Coco the Clown’s at a juggling convention.

I can see only three outcomes to this palpable mess:-

– Ally remains manager ‘as is’ for the next 12 months and is paid as per his contract.

– Ally is put on ‘gardening leave’ and is paid as per the terms of his contract for the next 12 months.

– A compromise is reached between the board and Ally on the contract and he leaves the club.

The final option is in my opinion, the only way the club can possibly move forward, and the sooner it is cleared up the better for them. The other two will result in even more collateral damage to a car crash which is teetering on the brink of a write-off. And whilst it is the best option for the team, it is not one that will please the fans as with all compromise agreements, comes the “confidentiality clause.”

One goes with the other, and if the supporters think that at the end of all this, when Ally is eventually ‘persuaded’ to leave, he will be singing like a miner’s canary; they will be greatly disappointed. I’m afraid Ally’s singing will be limited to his next club’s Christmas Party.

Unless of course, there’s an Insolvency event…

Congeniality

Contracts can be complex issues on both sides of the border and how the situations are dealt with post-termination are very different. In England the PFA Union is very powerful and their members are protected very well. Money down there is rarely an issue due to the TV companies involvement at all levels and this ensures that even the smaller, less lucrative clubs, can afford to quickly and amicably negotiate a settlement.

Did you know that if a coach or manager is sacked in England, the new incumbent cannot be put in place until agreement has been reached on the previous regime’s terms? It’s one of the main reasons ‘gardening’ becomes such a popular pastime amongst sacked managers as the club continues to pay until a long term settlement can be reached.
We lost our jobs at Notts County and with term still left on our contracts, a meeting was arranged. The financial guy sat down and explained to us he had been given a figure by the chairman and as long as we didn’t go over it, we could be out of the room very quickly indeed. My first question was the immortal “what’s the figure then?” Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but within 15 minutes, calculations were made and we shook hands amicably and with a minimum of fuss.

Parity

Contrast that with the situation which regularly unfolds in Scotland whereby a club, will sack a manager and immediately stop paying regardless of length of contract. Lawyers are immediately contacted and a claim for Unfair Dismissal is filed. The next six months are spent negotiating and in between times it becomes difficult to take another job, as any remuneration then becomes deductable on any claim against the club. This is why they do it. You have 12 months left on a contract, you take a job after five months, then the club who sacked you are only liable for the first five months, as well as any loss you have encountered in your new contract.

It can unfortunately become a case of brinkmanship as you wait for your court hearing to come up whilst surviving on no wages. So spare me if you will, the sympathy for the club who MAY have to pay compensation. Contracts are there to be honoured on both sides and, as it happens, I settled out of court five days before the hearing after a long nine months without pay.

Somehow, I don’t think Ally McCoist will worry too much about not being paid for a few weeks while he waits on a compensation agreement to be thrashed out. But as ever, with all things Rangers over the past two-and-a-half-years, there are probably still more questions than answers. If Ally can walk away from this debacle with his legacy still as intact as his apparently onerous contract, then his reputation as a shrewd operator will have been forged as strongly as his bond with the supporters. As for his reputation as a football manager, well, I’ll let you decide on the answer to that one. And of course, one question still remains at the end of the whole sorry episode, where on Earth do Rangers go from here? Surely, time will tell.

Finally, onto this week’s Tips and after another disappointing from the ex-pro’s, it’s back to the boys from the Scottish media for the elusive treble. This week Sunsport’s very own football writer, Kenny MacDonald, goes for Stranraer (2to1), Forfar (4to6) and Queen’s Park (4to6). As ever, good luck and here’s hoping.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell

2 thoughts on “WALK ON

  1. Hi David
    A wrongly dismissed manager has a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate loss ( eg by seeking to secure other work), and is not entitled legally to sit tight until a Hearing.
    Alan Hutcheson

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    • Thanks Alan, appreciate your comments. Point I was trying to make was not a legal one. Just trying to emphasise clubs will stop paying you regardless of contract and then do anything to mitigate their own losses, I’m not a legal expert, just relaying the experience from my case

      David

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