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Some Exits Are On The Pitch...

A Column by Employment Law Expert Fergal Dowling From Irwin Mitchell Solicitors


World Cup 2010 has seen a number of surprising exits. Who would have predicted before the tournament kicked off that France would come bottom of Group A and fail to make it through to the Second Round?  And jaws must have dropped at World Cup holders Italy losing to Slovakia and heading home at the end of the Group stage too.

High profile departures, however, were not restricted to the pitch.  Football pundit Robbie Earle was sacked by his TV broadcasting employer amid claims that tickets allocated to him for use by family and friends had been used by a third party, breaching FIFA rules. 

The seats were occupied by a group of women wearing orange dresses, allegedly engaged in an ambush marketing stunt for a Dutch brewery during the match between the Netherlands and Denmark.  FIFA bans the use of World Cup games to promote anything other than the offerings of the tournament’s official sponsors.  

Mr Earle reportedly said that that he had informed his employer that some tickets were going to a friend and asked if said friend could pay the broadcaster for the tickets.  Whatever the details leading up to the broadcaster’s decision, his contract was brought to a swift end. 
A contract can be terminated in numerous ways, including:

  1. Termination with notice – statutory minimum is one week per year worked but may be longer in the contract
  2. A termination clause which gives either party the option to bring the contract to an end at the arrival of a particular date in time or specific incident.
  3. Termination for breach of contract – fundamental breach of the contract:
    • a. This may be misconduct over a period of time during which the individual has been disciplined but not improved
    • b. A one off act of gross misconduct.

Football, as the cliché goes, is a game of two halves and this tournament is no exception. While one contract was terminated, another had its break clause red-carded. Prior to him flying out with the England team to South Africa, Fabio Capello's contract of employment was amended, removing the break clause options, which allowed either side to terminate the contract without penalty. 

I had hoped that Fabio and the lads would beat Germany on Sunday and go on to pick up the trophy. Sadly, England headed for the exit too and I have found myself reading more news about contracts, with Fabio's future as England manager – he is contracted to remain for another two years, taking in the UEFA European Football Championship in 2012 - to be discussed at a meeting later this month.  Roll on the Olympics.