The UK Football League is preparing to sue the law firm that acted as their legal advisors in the now-collapsed ITV Digital deal.
Hammonds Solicitors, which at the time of the deal traded as Edge Ellison, have been accused by the Football League of failing to protect their interests, being negligent and being in breach of contract. Hammonds tell us “The proceedings are without merit and will be vigorously contested.”
The Football League is not disclosing the size of the claim beyond saying it is looking for “substantial damages”. The Guardian Newpaper estimates that they are out of pocket by £119m (~$214m, ~€174m)
“The league ended up £119m out of pocket after agreeing a £6m settlement with ITV and selling its rights to Sky for a vastly reduced figure of £95m over four years”
ITV Digital, or OnDigital as it was originally known, was an attempt by Carlton and Granada to take on Sky’s dominance. It failed and ended up cost them £1.1Bn (~$1.98Bn, ~€1.61Bn).
Back in early 2002 the ITV companies were taken to court by the Football League in an attempt to extract the money they felt had been promised to them. The Judge found in favour of the ITV companies, as the signed contact between them did not have a crucial “parent guarantee” clause.
Many in the legal profession see the recent action as a last resort action by the Football League. Negligence and breach of duty of care requires a clear basis of proof. It would appear that the quantifiable loss that would also required in such a case, shouldn’t be too hard to prove.
It will be a bean feast for lawyers as Hammonds insurance company calls in another set of lawyers to act in its defence. Hammonds tell us that London-based Barlow Lyde & Gilbert have been instructed to act on its behalf.
“There will be a lot of people running around looking back at their notes, advice and busy preparing affidavits” said Paul Hosford, partner New Media Law, “It will definitely be one to watch.”