Ex-Sunderland AFC executive loses £1million damages claim against club

Michael Farnan has had his claims dismissed in court.
Michael Farnan has had his claims dismissed in court.

A former Sunderland AFC director who claimed he was wrongly forced out of his job has had his £1m-plus damages claim thrown out by a top judge.

Michael Farnan was appointed as a marketing director at the Premier League club in 2011 after a meeting with club legend Niall Quinn.

But Mr Farnan was gone in only two years after he was accused of a string of incidents of gross misconduct.

Claiming damages and payment of bonuses, he took the club to court - but today saw his case rejected by High Court judge, Mrs Justice Whipple.

Mr Farnan's claim that CEO Margaret Byrne was "out to get" him was wrong, said the judge, and he had not been "squeezed out".

During a two-week hearing in Liverpool, the judge heard allegations that Mr Farnan had breached the club's confidentiality rules.

It included "banking" club documentation using his or his wife's email addresses and talking to a journalist off the record.

Looking for another job, he had sent a club presentation to a football agent to show what work he had done.

But that could have led to commercially sensitive information being leaked to others, it was alleged.

Suing the club last month, Mr Farnan claimed that nothing he did justified a sacking from his £190,000-a-year job.

But giving judgement in London today, Mrs Justice Whipple said the "banking" of club documents was a "serious breach" of the service agreement he signed.

He had chosen to "do his own thing" when speaking to the journalist, but that had led to an unwanted story appearing in the press.

"A common theme emerges from the established breaches, namely Mr Farnan's breach of SAFC's confidence," she continued.

"I accept that confidentiality was a very important issue for SAFC, specifically addressed with detailed provisions in the service agreement.

"Taking an overview, and acknowledging the common theme at the heart of Mr Farnan's misconduct, I also conclude that SAFC was entitled to terminate his contract as gross misconduct."

Although she rejected Mr Farnan's claim, the judge said some of the allegations levelled against him by the club had been "trumped up".

"It was a pity that SAFC chose to pursue so many allegations against Mr Farnan at the disciplinary hearing and at this trial," she said.

"Many were trivial or, on examination, not established breaches at all."

Mr Farnan was not in court to hear his claim dismissed.