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Rangers FC in new tribunal tribulations

BY Donald MacKinnon
Employment law
BG Purple

Seventy current and former players at Rangers FC have added to the legal woes of the Glasgow side by raising employment tribunal claims against the football club.

As any follower of Scottish football will tell you, the club has had something of an annus horribilis this year after the club was relegated to the third division. A great many pundits found themselves becoming experts in company law as the story unfolded, with the old company running the show being placed in administration and its assets being purchased by Charles Green’s “newco”.  

Unfortunately, Mr Green and the UK’s sporting media were so consumed with the wrangling over finance and administration and equity and shareholdings that they neglected to remember a simple fact- that Rangers Ltd was, first and foremost, an employer and that the footballing heroes gracing the hallowed turf each week were also employees. As a result no-one seemed to notice or care that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (or TUPE for short) would apply. 

The TUPE regs place an obligation on employers to inform and consult with staff prior to a transfer taking place and are pretty specific about the consequences should employers fail to hit the back of the net. TUPE also allows staff to object to a transfer and decline to transfer, which a number of players did. 

The players’ union, PFA Scotland, has now raised a claim against Rangers under TUPE on behalf of 67 players for failure to inform and consult about the transfer between companies. If the union can show that they and the players were kept in the dark during the negotiations, it will be able to claim up to three months’ gross pay per player in compensation. The liability for such an award is joint and several between the companies, meaning that the Charles Green’s new Rangers might have to cough up to meet the union’s demands. 

In addition to the TUPE claim, three former players, Sone Aluko, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ness, have raised constructive dismissal claims against the club, presumably on the basis that management’s conduct in keeping them in the dark about significant details concerning the club’s future constituted a breach of contract. 

The whole shebang is clouded by the fact that a number of current and ex- players have sought to distance themselves from the employment claims. Sone Aluko, in particular, has denied any knowledge of the legal action. The game continues…

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