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Football Ground’s £10 Million Development Potential Triggers Family War

Football pitchImportant agreements, even between close family members, should always be put into writing by a lawyer as the best means of heading off future discord. The point could hardly have been more clearly made than by a High Court dispute concerning a ramshackle football ground that set father against son.

A businessman had stepped in to save his struggling local football club when it was heavily in debt and had only 109 members. Many years later, however, the fortunes of the club were transformed when its ground was earmarked for development as part of a major urban regeneration project. As a result, the site was estimated to be worth at least £10 million.

The businessman’s son and nephew argued that, before the club’s purchase, he had agreed that they would have a 20 per cent stake in the business. A former boyfriend of his daughter also claimed a 10 per cent share. They argued, amongst other things, that the club would not have thrived had it not been for their extensive and gratuitous assistance in running it. The businessman, however, resisted their claims.

In ruling in his favour, the Court was not satisfied that he had promised the three men that they would be part-owners of the club. They had neither been answerable for the club’s debts, nor had there been a partnership or joint venture agreement. In the absence of written records, it was also impossible to identify any definite and material financial contribution made by any of them to the club’s purchase.

Whilst the Court accepted that they had worked with a view to improving the fortunes of the club, their contribution had not been exceptional and had not been linked to any assurances given to them by the businessman. Following strife within the family, they had some years ago ceased their involvement in the club. The Court concluded that they had no beneficial interest in the club, or its ground.



 
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