Following on from Mr Green’s threats of action last week, and the concerns expressed by Mr McCoist, which I wrote about here, players have started to object to their TUPE transfers to Sevco.
Mr Green issued a statement on Sunday after the departure of Messrs Whittaker and Naismith. My comments are in bold.
Green said: “It is a great pity that certain players have chosen this time to attempt to tear up their contracts and walk away from the Club. The Club is facing massive challenges in terms of its league status and the last thing the fans want to see is a dispute between the Club and players.
Sorry to mention the legalities, but Mr Green is comparing apples and oranges here. The players do not have a contract with “the Club”. That has no legal persona. The players were employed by Rangers Football Club PLC (In Administration). Mr Green wants the players to be employed by Sevco 5088 Ltd, or Sevco Scotland Ltd, or indeed some other Sevco variation for all we know. The players are not “ripping up their contracts”. They are exercising, validly in my view, their rights not to work for an employer for who they do not want to work!
I also think that a dispute between players and “the Club” whilst not ideal, is not “the last thing” the fans want to see.
“However, it appears that is the route several players are choosing. I can assure those players and Clubs who may be interested in signing them that Rangers will seek damages for breach of contract and for inducement to break contracts.
Mr Green says that “Rangers” will seek damages for breach of contract and for inducement to breach contracts. First of all, an inducement to breach a contract necessarily comes before a breach is committed. Does he have evidence to establish such alleged “inducements”?
More fundamentally, he refers to “Rangers” seeking damages. Who or what is that? “The Club” cannot sue as it has no legal persona. Rangers Football Club PLC (IA) cannot sue players for breaking their employment contracts with RFC PLC, as the contractual relationship ended when the assets and business of Rangers passed to Sevco. Sevco might be able to pursue action, on the basis that, despite apparent failures to follow procedures, the TUPE transfers were effective. However, Sevco is not Rangers! (It might posses then “spirit of Rangers” but that is an emotional, rather than a legal matter).
If Mr Green believes, or has legal advice to the effect, that the players are in reach of contract, then Sevco can seek an interdict to stop the players purporting to join another team, and in addition, could seek an order requiring them to fulfil their contracts by turning up. That does not strike me as a sensible way of generating good employer-employee relations!
If Sevco could successfully sue for damages for breach of contract, then this could, in a way, be perfect as Sevco does not need to pay players who have refused to join the newco, but might seek a payment to settle the case. The problem is that funding a business on the possible proceeds of litigation is a fool’s path. The lack of certainty of time scale and outcome mean that Sevco, even if successful, which I highly doubt, would maybe wait several years before winning, and this could be subject to appeal.
In any event, even if the players missed the boat to object to the TUPE transfer, they have, in my opinion, a further reason allowing them to leave. The failure of Sevco to be admitted to the SPL means that their only option is the SFL. They could be admitted to SFL1, or SFL3. They might not be admitted at all. If Sevco Rangers do not play competitive football next season, that would be such a fundamental change in the terms of the players’ contracts that it would amount to a breach by Sevco. Even in the SFL the absence of the opportunity to earn contractual bonuses would be enough, in my mind, to justify players resigning for breach by Sevco. I suspect Rangers contracts did not include references to bonuses for winning the Ramsdens Cup or SFL3!
“The SFA has been considering the issue and has issued a preliminary guidance note on registration issues. That note has made it clear that it is open to the Club to challenge the actions of the players. Our lawyers have written to the SFA today intimating that we do challenge the actions of the players and explaining why that is. They have also asked that the SFA confirm how it proposes to resolve the dispute between the players and Club.
I understand that a player’s agent enquired last week of the SFA what the position of the players was, to which the response was that they were registered. At that point the question of to whom they were registered had not been determined by the SFA.
It is also of note that Mr Green seems to be trying to block the players asserting their rights, rather than Sevco asserting its own. Surely if these were now Sevco players, he need not object to anything?
Again Mr Green uses imprecise language. There is no dispute between the players and “the Club”. The dispute is between the players and Sevco 5088 Ltd, an organisation which, by its own admission, is not a member of the SFA!
“We have no wish to go to court on these matters but the players involved, their agents and clubs who may be pursuing these players should be in no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to protect the Club’s interests.
“The Club”! Enough already! Mr Green’s interests are those of Sevco. He has said as much, and that is entirely appropriate. However, his statements seem to be designed to appeal to his fans without having any correct legal background to them. One wonders what Sevco’s lawyers feel when they see statements like this being made.
“As Ally McCoist said yesterday the players should be honest about their intentions. When the players agreed to take wage cuts earlier this year they renegotiated their contracts to allow them to leave for reduced values. That was a sensible quid pro quo and meant that the Club would still get some transfer value for them should they leave.
“The Club…sigh”. Mr Green’s statement here implies that the players are being dishonest – how long before an ex-player sues him! The players took very substantial wage cuts. However, Mr Green might be better looking to D+P who negotiated the reduced selling clauses. In any event, why should the players agree to join a company of which they know nothing, of whose resources they know nothing and whether or not it plays football next year is unclear? Whilst the players have genuine affection and loyalty to Rangers, how much are they required to have to Sevco? If Mr Green was saying that, with the sale proceeds of the players, he was going to sign Lionel Messi, for example, then the players might feel that their interests could be put after those of Sevco and “the Club”. But why do that when that clearly is not the case?
“What is happening now is that the players want to leave for nothing, thereby denying the Club any transfer value at all. At the same time, players who are ready to breach their contracts want to secure handsome signing on fees for other clubs, while Rangers get nothing.
As mentioned, there is no breach of contract. The law is clear. The contracts of employment have ended as the players have objected. Sevco have no rights to or over these players at all, and indeed it is clear not that Mr Green wants them to play for his team, but he is only interested in them as bags of cash. Bearing in mind what his group bought for £5.5 million, being land worth, on D+P’s figures, in excess of £4.5 million, how can he legitimately claim that he is being diddled when he cannot sell for millions of pounds players he himself has “bought” a fortnight ago for less than £1 million in total!
“I have heard criticism from one of the players today that I had not been in contact. That is surprising since his agent was in my office on Friday for a meeting with both me and the Manager.
OK. But you were supposed to meet and advise players of the position some time before that. And this admission does not seem, to me, to help the Sevco case. If that was the first meaningful contact, then criticising a player for exercising his right to object on the Sunday after the Friday meeting seems perfectly valid.
“I have spoken to the Rangers staff now on a number of occasions and at staff meetings. No players were present at these meetings and they have all been on holiday.
No players were present as they were on holiday. Mr Green has just admitted that Sevco has not fulfilled its duties to its “new” employees. On that basis I suspect this line will form a major plank of the defence for any player who is taken to court by Sevco. Well said Mr Green!
“The players’ actions are all the more breathtaking given that that virtually everyone else employed at the Club has got on with the job since the CVA was refused and a new company had to be formed. Of course, they had concerns but after asking all the relevant questions it was business as usual. That applies to the groundsmen, the tea ladies, the office staff and everyone else who make Rangers tick. Rangers is still Rangers and players, above all, should know that.”
The groundsmen, tea ladies and office staff are not in the position of being on fixed term contracts, nor are they marketable to the extent that Celtic, or St Mirren, or Everton would swoop to sign Aggie the tea lady, or Bib the admin assistant on an inflated salary. TUPE exists to protect the rights of employees. It is designed to deal with the tea ladies and groundsmen, not the high earning professional players. However the focus is entirely on protecting the employee, not on protecting the new employer.
And what strikes me as breathtaking is that Mr Green and Sevco planned clearly to buy all the players from RFC PLC IA, for a combined cost of less than £1 million, and SELL LOTS OF THEM IMMEDIATELY!
If it had worked, it would have been a brilliant money making plan. Instead the players have seen that their real choice was to leave to protect their own interests, or to stay to be sold to further those of Sevco and Mr Green.
On that basis there was no choice.
If Mr Green is serious, then court writs should be flying about already. In fact he might be delighted about the objections as I suspect he might refuse to pay the players who have objected their June salaries as they are, he says, in breach of contract. That would clearly help what is likely to be a parlous financial position at Ibrox, and might keep Sevco afloat for a while longer than it might otherwise have managed.
If Sevco take no court actions against any players, then this would be a sign that he was bluffing, and that the players have called his bluff, revealing that he holds nothing.
Posted by Paul McConville