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Hetherington Proves to be a Shrewd Operator
Posted by southstander on July 22 2005 - 09:15:23

Still Smiling Iest?
Wednesday saw the initial High Court ruling in the case of Leeds Rugby Ltd. v. Iestyn Harris and Bradford Bulls Holdings Ltd.

It was a day which saw the 'wheeler dealer' from Headingley get one over on the contract breaker Harris, and the solicitor Chris Caisley, not to mention giving a poke in the eye to the RFL who had earlier ruled in Bradfords favour.

I've now managed to get my hands of a copy of the court record, which makes for interesting reading, and can fill in some of the detail on the judgement.

Everyone will, by now, be aware of the judgement from the Hon. Mr Justice Gray in the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division. He upheld Leeds Rugby's claim that the clause in Iestyn Harris's contract requiring him to return to Leeds after his stint in Rugby Union was lawful, legally binding and not a restraint of trade. Harris is therefore guilty of 'Breach of Contract'. Due to this verdict, he therefore also found Bradford Bulls responsible of 'Inducing Breach of Contract'.

The highlights of the sixteen page judgement include;

  • The initial transfer fee offered by the Welsh RU was a paltry £300,000 which was rejected by Leeds who stated that they would not let Harris leave before the end of his contract for less than £1,000,000.
  • From the start of discussions with the WRU, Hetherington insisted on a 'return to Leeds' clause at the end of his WRU contract. This was included in negotiations for the four months leading up to the transfer, although Harris denied he was aware of the clause.
  • The judgement implies that Harris did not have a good understanding of the proposed 'contract' with the WRU and that elements had not been explained to him.
  • The eventual deal with the WRU was for a £750,000 'compensation' and the use of an executive box at the Millennium Stadium for two years. The deal was to 'loan' Harris to the WRU.
  • The 'return to Leeds' contract would have lasted for 12 months and would have seen Harris return to Headingley on the same amount of money that he was earning at Cardiff - £200,000 per year. Although not stated in the judgement it is implied that he went to Bradford for in excess of this amount.
  • Harris started talking to the Bulls on the 20th March 2004, four months before he signed for them.
  • This has been a messy episode for the game, and one which has again dragged our sport through the mud. It has, however, clearly illustrated three things which we had probably already guessed. Hetherington is a shrewd operator, Harris is a contract breaker and a mercenary, and Chris Caisley and the Bulls are prepared to go to any lengths to 'get one over' on the Rhinos.

    The full judgement can be found here.



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