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ColumnistsLawMelting potThe Sports LawyerWhy Fabio Capello might not cost as much as £12m to sack; and why Fifa’s excuses on technology are a bit rich

Why Fabio Capello might not cost as much as £12m to sack; and why Fifa’s excuses on technology are a bit rich

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THE SPORTS LAWYER is actually a posse of Britain’s brightest lawyers, from theSport & Media team at UK law firm, Thomas Eggar, who will be contributing features, analysis and insight on a regular basis on the key sports law issues. In TSL’s latest column, Chris Bain, employment law specialist, looks at Fabio Capello’s contract, while Andrew Nixon, dispute resolution expert and keen football fan, then considers Fifa’s stance on technology

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By Chris Bain

30 June 2010

With England unceremoniously dumped out of the 2010 World Cup, the media – and hoards of frustrated England fans! – are now looking for someone to blame. Step forward Fabio Capello.

Following on from a very successful World Cup qualifying campaign, and with Inter Milan sniffing around, the FA decided they would try to lock the then “bullet-proof” Capello into the England set-up and remove the break clause from his £5m-a-year fixed term contract.

That break clause would have enabled the FA or Capello to terminate his contract after the World Cup without having to pay for the entirety of the rest of the term of that contract. If the FA do now decide to sack Capello it could cost them, if the media are to be believed, £12m. Or would it?

Should the FA sack Capello, they would almost certainly be in breach of his fixed-term contract. That breach would entitle Capello to claim damages for breach of contract. However, Capello would most likely need to take reasonable steps get another job and give credit for any new earnings, which would reduce any damages payable by the FA.

In the current economic climate, the chances of a 64-year-old finding suitable alternative employment are not good. However, the global market of football management is not the real world, and with a successful record of coaching achievements, Capello should be able to find another role. The job of coaching the Italian national side could soon be available!.

What this means is that if the FA do sack Capello, they will almost certainly seek to reach an agreement whereby Capello is paid some, but not all, of the rest of the term of his contract.

There is of course the possibility that Capello might resign. If Capello walks away, rather than being pushed, a compensation deal is still likely but the FA should be able to agree a lower payout. We can only hope that in such circumstances, the FA have not included wording in Capello’s contract that would entitle him to substantial compensation.

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By Andrew Nixon

FIFA rule out goal line technology – but do they have a point?

The arguments over the use of technology in football are not a new phenomenon and have been a point of debate for a number of years. Pressure for its inclusion gathered pace in 2005 when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a last-minute goal in a Premier League match at Old Trafford despite the fact that the ball clearly crossed the goal-line. Thierry Henry’s handball against the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers and, more recently, Sunday’s match has however thrown the debate right back into the spotlight.

Despite the lobbying, Fifa has in the last 24 hours once again ruled out using technology,  at least for the foreseeable future, and instead has said it will focus on using extra officials behind the goal. Fifa President Sepp Blatter has come out firmly against technology, despite many observers believing that he was wavering after the Henry incident. The extra official route will be introduced for the Champions League next season and the plan is to use it for the European Championships in 2012.

Why is FIFA so against bringing in technology?

Over the last few years, technology has been introduced in cricket, tennis and rugby union. There have been teething problems but overall it has been deemed very much a success. The options proposed to Fifa have been Hawkeye, which is currently used in tennis and cricket, and which tracks the ball through the air with a camera detection system; and the Cairos Chip-Ball, which involves inserting a chip implanted in the ball and would require cables under the penalty area and behind the goal line. Fifa have refused to endorse either.

One of Fifa’s concerns relates to the accuracy of the technology, and evidence from other sports suggest it does not eradicate controversy. Further, Fifa maintain the human element of officiating is an important part of football, something technology would impact on. Fifa also appear worried about slowing the game up and the cost of introduction.

Although Fifa’s stance has some merit, their arguments quickly erode when a logical eye is cast.

Concerns on accuracy are understandable; indeed, Federer and Nadal have both raised issues with the Hawkeye technology in tennis. However, the clear-cut nature of goal line incidents such as Sunday’s mean that a reversion to a video replay (as they do in rugby union) would have resolved the issue beyond any doubt.

Equally, it’s hard to get on board with any argument that this would have slowed the game up – the decision on Sunday, whether by use of goal line technology or video replay, would have been instantaneous.

Perhaps the most remarkable reason given by Fifa for rebutting technology is cost. By way of any example, the installation of the cables needed for Cairos would cost around £350,000 per ground. That is not an inconsiderable outlay, but when considered against the huge profits generated by the World Cup (it is understood that the 2010 World Cup will generate $3.4bn in revenue) it is entirely understandable that players, and more importantly the fans who play such a big part in creating the tournament revenue, find Fifa’s stance hard to take.

The future

For the moment, it seems as though Fifa’s stance is unlikely to change and the lobbyists’ will have to bide their time. Whatever the views on whether or not the disallowance of Frank Lampard’s “goal” made any difference to the end result, the reality is that another goal line dispute is around the corner and technology provides the best solution to eradicating high profile errors. Fifa may believe that the human element is part of the romance of football, but I doubt many England fans, or indeed Republic of Ireland fans, would buy into that concept.

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