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Football Association (FA) rules require that, where disputes arise between players' agents and clubs, they must be resolved by arbitration rather than by public court proceedings. The extent of that requirement came under analysis in a High Court case that raised novel contractual issues.
A sports company claimed to have brought a player to the attention of a Premiership club that subsequently employed him. The company argued that it was thus entitled to receive a substantial fee, either on the strength of an implied contract or a retainer agreement, on the basis that the club would be unjustly enriched if no such fee were paid. The club, however, denied that it was under any obligation to pay.
After the company launched court proceedings, the club sought a stay of the claim on the basis that FA rules applied and the dispute had therefore to be submitted to arbitration. The company disputed that it was an intermediary, within the meaning of the rules, but the Court noted that it was registered as such. Whether or not that registration had been effected without the company's knowledge or authority, it had ratified and adopted the position by its conduct.
The Court accepted that any contractual relationship between the company and the club was far removed from the actual playing of football. However, it found that the fact of registration and the company's actions, including the raising of an invoice bearing its registration number, operated as an accession to FA rules. The dealings between the company and the club were thus governed by those rules. The arbitration rule therefore applied and a stay of the court proceedings was granted.