As a litigator and sports lawyer, dealing with commercial and sporting disputes, I often tell clients that principles are expensive. My job is to get my client the best result, which, more often than not, means the best financial outcome. This can often erase morality forming a part of any decision making. But what if money is no object? Perhaps this gives the aggrieved the freedom to define what constitutes ‘the best result’.
It is alleged that Carlos Tevez refused to come on as a substitute for Manchester City against Bayern Munich. Tevez has a contractual relationship with Manchester City and his obligation to play for the team goes to the very root of the contract. As such, should Manchester City be able to establish that Tevez refused to participate in the game (which Tevez denies), then Manchester City would be entitled to treat such conduct as a fundamental breach and bring the contract between club and player to an end. Merely on the grounds of principle, this would appear to be the appropriate recourse.
Should City do this, they would no longer have a contractual relationship with an asset worth potentially Â£50 million? Tevez would be out of contract and eligible to sign for any other club on a free transfer. City would however at this point, have a cause of action against Tevez personally for damages as a result the breach, which would
be based on the loss of a transfer fee – some £50 million. Now, i’m sure Tevez is a wealthy man but I doubt very much that he has any where near the wherewithal required to satisfy such a potential liability. As such, should this be the path Manchester City choose to take, recovery is likely to be limited to the value of Tevez’s net assets.
City’s other option would be to put principles to one side and look at this commercially from a financial point of view. Discipline Tevez, fine him in accordance with Premier Leagues Rules, but affirm the contract by not accepting the breach as bringing the contract to an end. This will give them the ability to sell their asset and receive a transfer fee for the player which, although may be cut price in all the circumstances, is still likely to be considerably more than what would be recovered from suing Tevez himself.
Dismissing the player for breach of contract will inevitably cause Manchester City a financial loss but this must be balanced against having a player at the club who has refused to come on the pitch, undermining all that Manchester City are in the process of building. Manchester City will undoubtedly have difficult personalities on their
staff to manage in the future and perhaps feel the need to set a precedent now. Unfortunately for Tevez, he has fallen out with one of very few clubs who can afford to defy the value of principles.