Current Premier League manager Tony Pulis has been ordered by the High Court to repay an amount of £3.77 million to Crystal Palace FC following the early payment of a bonus to him for keeping the club in the Premier League back in 2014. It is understood that combined legal costs could push this figure up to the £5 million mark.

Under his contract with the London club, Pulis was due bonus payments of circa £2 million for retaining the club’s Premier League status. This was to be paid at the end of August 2014 but Pulis had requested it early with the specified reason being that he wanted to purchase a plot of land on behalf of his daughter. The day after Pulis received the said bonus he informed the Palace Chairman Steve Parish that he had chosen to leave the club. It was subsequently found that there was no evidence of an imminent property transaction nor that Pulis had indeed intended to remain at the club.

The matter was taken to the FA’s Rule K Arbitration procedure by Palace in an attempt to recover the bonus amount. This FA Arbitration procedure is a binding method of resolving disputes without going to court and will normally remain confidential. The original Panel found in favour of Palace and Parish, feeing that Pulis had “deliberately misled” Parish so that he could obtain the bonus and get a better job elsewhere. Pulis was thus ordered to repay the £2 million bonus and a further figure of £1million for damages by way of breach of contract and legal costs. Pulis decided to appeal the Panel’s ruling but this was dismissed with Pulis being ordered to pay £2.276 million in respect of repayment of the bonus plus liquidated damages of £1.5million and legal costs “for deceit”.

Judge Sir Michael Burton, hearing the appeal, upheld the original Panel’s decision that Pulis had made two fraudulent misrepresentations. The first one of these being that Pulis had stated to Parish that he was totally committed to the club and would be remaining with Palace until at least the end of August 2014 (which was when the bonus was contractually due to be paid). The second one being in relation to the date on which a “heated meeting of players” had been said to have taken place. Pulis alleged that the said meeting had taken place on 12th August whereas the evidence strongly pointed to the fact it had taken place on 8th August. Pulis had cited the meeting as a key reason for him leaving the club.

Judge Sir Michael Burton upholding the damages award made by the original FA Panel, felt it appropriate in the circumstances to make his ruling public. The original Panel ruling had found Pulis’ standards of conduct to be “disgraceful”. The conclusions in the judgment of Judge Sir Michael Burton also warranted costs to be awarded against Mr Pulis on the more severe indemnity costs basis due to his conduct during the matter. The recent court judgment has arguably severely damaged Pulis’ reputation by virtue of the suggestion that he had acted fraudulently in terms of seeking to engineer his departure from Palace to obtain a better job elsewhere. Crystal Palace are now at liberty to enforce the judgment against Pulis through the courts.Please find a link to the full case decision here

Here at Farleys we have a number of specialist sports law solicitors who will be more than happy to advise you on the grounds and procedure involved in both FA Rule K Arbitrations and Court proceedings. Do not hesitate to contact us today to speak with one of our expert lawyers if you have been affected by any of the above issues.