ABU SATTAR | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
In just the space of a week Manchester United (MU) captain and England international, Harry Maguire, has been arrested and found guilty of several offences by the Greek justice system. His offences include bodily harm, attempted bribery, violence against public employees and insult after arrest. The decision gives MU, England, and Maguire’s commercial partners serious food for thought and leaves his management team with legal and commercial headaches. It must be noted that the terms of Maguire’s contracts are only known to the parties involved and their respective legal representatives. Therefore, much of the following analysis is based on educated guesses and is also subject to Maguire’s right to appeal.
The current circumstances means that there are many commercial implications for multiple interested parties. A situation such as this can really hurt a player’s marketability and commercial contracts and puts them in a weaker bargaining position. Many of Maguire’s commercial agreements will likely have a ‘good conduct’ clause, i.e. Maguire cannot do anything that undermines his ‘value’ or ‘image’. Where this type of clause is violated, the other party may retain the ability to terminate or renegotiate the contract. Maguire’s conviction and offences would, undeniably, violate the ‘good conduct’ clause. As a result, any and all commercial agreements, with this clause, may be terminated by his commercial partners or renegotiated to Maguire’s detriment because his image is not ‘worth’ as much. Again, subject to an appeal, the decision can commercially harm both MU and England.
Players are representatives of the clubs they play for and damage to a player’s image can, by association, damage the club’s image unless they distance themselves. Although both MU and England, through manager Gareth Southgate, have backed Maguire since the start of the situation and continue to do so. If, however, the decision is upheld then MU and England may be pressured into disciplining Maguire so as to avoid undermining their code of conducts. Thus, Maguire could be stripped of his MU captaincy, fined by both MU and the FA, and find himself on the bench or excluded from games entirely.
Some of the legal implications have already been touched upon, in that Maguire could see his commercial agreements terminated or renegotiated. Of course, there are the obvious criminal implications facing Maguire, but he could also face further contractual issues (especially if his appeal fails or the guilty verdict upheld).
Under the standard form Premier League player contract, a club can unilaterally terminate a players contract if he is found guilty of ‘gross misconduct’ (clause 10.1.1). Gross misconduct is also widely defined by the aforementioned contract (clause 3.2.5) and Maguire’s conduct is within the scope. Subject to a successful appeal, MU are well within their right to terminate Maguire’s contract. The likelihood of this happening though is low, given Maguire’s importance to MU, the fact that he costs MU £80 million and that his offences are minor in that they do not lead to lengthy prison sentences.
There are also questions surrounding the proceedings and case against Maguire, but I cannot comment on this due to my lack of knowledge on Greece’s criminal system. Nevertheless, the situation is ongoing and it will be an interesting one to follow for football fans and budding sports lawyers.
Abu is a law graduate with aspirations of becoming a commercial solicitor. His legal interests are in property, data protection and technology, but with enough information he can have an opinion on anything. He also wants to see and work towards greater diversification of the legal sector, particularly of more senior roles.
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