As the dust settles at Old Trafford after the first shockwaves from Cristiano Ronaldo’s highly critical interview, club officials have been busy considering their options for the next step in resolving an increasingly serious situation. toxic.
On the day of the broadcast of the first episode of the Talk TV interview with presenter Piers Morgan, owners of Manchester United, the Glazer family, chief executive Richard Arnold and director of football John Murtough, and manager Erik ten Hag, will dialogue with their lawyers. waiting to see the full extent of player feedback over the next 24 hours.
So far, in excerpts also published by the Sun newspaper and video clips viewed more than 11 million times on social media, Ronaldo has accused his employers of betrayal and disrespect, lashing out at Ten Hag and to the club’s hierarchy. Here’s what we know so far.
But what options are available to the club? How could they take a constructive step forward after the 37-year-old superstar’s embarrassing controversy?
What is the biggest consideration for United based on what they know?
The most important thing for United is to establish the extent to which Ronaldo breaches his contract through his comments and what they are then able to do as a result.
All top-flight players sign Premier League employment contracts with their clubs.
Under the agreement, they are required to “comply with and act in accordance with all lawful instructions of any authorized officer of the club” and are not permitted to “write or say anything that might discredit the club… or cause damage to the club”.
Jamie Singer, a partner at sports law specialist Onside Law, believes that Ronaldo may already be in breach of his standard contract.
“In the contract there is a specific provision that talks about not saying anything that brings discredit to the club or damages the reputation of the club,” he says. “The content of the interview immediately puts him in violation.
“The standard conditions also cover, as far as possible, informing the club beforehand about the interviews you are doing. He could have informed the club, so I think it was probably another breach.
It is understood United were made aware of the interview by Ronaldo’s camp on Sunday, shortly before Morgan’s first tweet to post it, so it could be open to interpretation if this qualifies as notice. within reason.
“If I understand correctly, the standard contract does not prohibit players from doing interviews,” adds Singer. “But it forces them to try to help the club by telling them they are doing it in advance and making sure they are reached.”
In this case, Ronaldo is no different to his teammates or players from the other 19 Premier League clubs.
“It’s a standard Premier League contract that every Manchester United player will have signed and every club is obliged to use,” says Singer. “He (Ronaldo) will have signed those terms.
“This includes implied terms about trust, loyalty and obedience to reasonable instructions.
“There’s no doubt that what he’s done puts him in breach of the standard contract. From what I’ve seen, accusing the club of betrayal, of breach of commitments, it’s pretty easy to say that he has discredited the club and damaged the interests of the club.
What could happen if United decided that Ronaldo had breached his contract?
Ultimately, the club could terminate the Portuguese’s contract.
Having originally joined United in August 2021 on a two-year contract with an option for an additional year, his current terms are set to expire in August 2023 – assuming that additional year has not been agreed.
However, if the United hierarchy feel the player staying at the club is impossible and want to try and get rid of him even in the face of appeals or more damaging publicity, there is a process they can follow.
“If he’s out of contract, that’s one thing,” adds Singer. “But if it’s such a fundamental breach of contract that can lead to termination, that’s another level.
“You can’t prejudge a few out-of-context clips and snippets, so it makes sense that United and their legal team know exactly what is being said and then make judgment.”
United might be best advised to go through the set process as they would for any potential breach of contract and consider all of their options.
“There is a disciplinary process and if someone is in breach of contract by doing something they shouldn’t have done, the club has the option to fine the player and impose a penalty” , explains Singer.
A high-profile precedent is former United striker Romelu Lukaku.
The striker gave an explosive interview to Sky Italia last season, lambasting Chelsea’s behavior when he’s not playing regularly. Then-Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel said Lukaku would face ‘disciplinary action’ for the interview but, unlike Ronaldo, he was a player signed for £90million a few months later early.
Lukaku, who also apologized for his interview, is now on loan for the season at Inter Milan, the club he left for Chelsea.
“If it’s serious or if the player doesn’t agree, you enter the disciplinary procedure where the player has the opportunity to defend himself,” says Singer. “The club will say what they think they did wrong, they can say they don’t think they did anything wrong and then it’s up to the club board to decide what should be the sanction or if there is a penalty at all.
“In this situation, it would be an internal hearing and could potentially come to a situation where he has committed serious misconduct and they can terminate the contract.
“Or if they believe there’s so much going on here, they could cut it short and say they don’t need a disciplinary process. They might argue that it is so clear and obvious that it is serious misconduct that they would go straight for dismissal with 14 days notice.
Are there examples of players whose contract has been terminated?
In August 2011, Hull City terminated record signing Jimmy Bullard’s contract following an incident during a pre-season trip to Slovenia.
Bullard had a lucrative contract until the end of the 2012–13 season and this led to a legal dispute between him and the club. The ex-midfielder has reportedly finally agreed to a settlement and both sides have signed confidentiality agreements.
In 2014, Nicolas Anelka was sacked by West Bromwich Albion for serious misconduct. Anelka – who was given a five-match ban and £80,000 fine by the Football Association for the quenelle gesture he made at West Ham – had announced via Twitter that he was ending his playing contract, which had three and a half months to run.
The club had suspended the Frenchman on full pay following the FA verdict and planned to carry out their own investigation. West Brom initially said his statement on Twitter was “very unprofessional”.
Three hours later, the club revealed they had written to Anelka giving her 14 days’ notice to terminate, as required by her contract. They said Anelka did not apologize for “the impact and consequences of her (quenelle) gesture” or accept a substantial fine, which would have resulted in the lifting of his suspension.
Singer thinks United would be best advised to go through the entire process, no matter how angry they might feel about the interview.
“The safest route is to go through the process of a disciplinary hearing, we will establish it and you can defend yourself,” he says. “Then we decide on the sanction.
“If they find him guilty of serious misconduct, which is very rare, the player can always appeal to the Premier League. What makes it unusual is that the value of a player’s registration is usually so important It is unusual for a club to terminate a player’s registration contract because of the value of their registration.
“But here, however, they pay him several hundred thousand a week and they won’t be able to sell him for a big transfer fee. It changes the dynamic a lot.
“To save £400,000 a week it might be worth going this route. There’s enough inflammatory stuff in what we’ve seen that probably warrants serious misconduct.
“They would probably want to go through a disciplinary process to protect themselves against any claims that it was not due process and fairness. Knowing Ronaldo would likely challenge them, then they have another layer of protection.
So what could be the end result?
Despite the possibility of tearing up his contract, United can choose to do things amicably and quietly.
As well as criticizing United’s training ground facilities and a range of other harmful observations about its culture, Ronaldo accused the club of showing a lack of ’empathy’ when his young daughter was hospitalized in July.
Simon Leaf, head of sport at law firm Mishcon de Reya, believes settling the matter privately could be the best way for the club to further limit embarrassment.
“The club is caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “(A) the right to terminate is subject to Ronaldo’s right of appeal – particularly as it appears to suggest that United are failing in their own obligations to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their employees, which may go so far as to allow Ronaldo some time off under such difficult circumstances.
“There is no easy answer to this particular legal wrangle, and from experience it is suspected that given the sums involved in terms of wages and a possible transfer fee which may be waived, Ronaldo and the club will now try to resolve the issues as amicably as possible in private so that both parties save face.
(Top photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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