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Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 09:15

From: John Murphy

Subject: The Wayne Rooney case


Dear All:

Did anyone else pick up on the Wayne Rooney inducing breach of contract case?

It is reported as ...

Proform Sports Management Ltd v Proactive Sports Management Ltd [2007] 1 All ER 542

Rooney --- as every non-Man United fan would have to concede --- is a quite exceptional footballer; and this case turns on squabble between football agents.

The first agent to get hold of Rooney (or GOD as he's known in my house) signed him at 15 years old to a two-year representation deal. Before that contract expired, a second agent entered into negotiations with Rooney. Rooney eventually went to new agent but not until after the first contract expired. That said, during the subsistence of the 1st agency agreement, Rooney and the second agent did make two agreements (one that was premised on mutual mistake, the second which they later set aside by mutual agreement). Relying on these two "agreements" with the second agent, the first agent argued that the second agent had procured a breach of contract. But then the twist ... Rooney's contract with the first agent was voidable given that it was a non-exceptional contract with a minor (ie, it wasn't contract for necessaries etc).

So, could the second agent be liable in tort for inducing breach of a voidable contract. Well, according to His Honour Judge Hodge QC, he could not.

The judge said this ...

"it is no tort to procure the breach of a voidable contract, at least where the person induced is the party who enjoys the right to rescind - the point was not decided in Shears v Mendeloff because on the facts it was unnecessary to do so - [and] the point may not have been directly thrown up for decision in De Francesco v Barnum; but it does seem to me that if a contract is voidable, then there should be no liability for procuring the breach of it. It does not matter whether the contract has already been avoided, or whether the alleged tortfeasor merely induces the minor to breach the contract. If the contract is one which the minor is entitled to avoid, then it does not seem to me that liability for the tort of wrongfully interfering with, or of inducing the breach of, the contract should arise. I can see no justification for holding a defendant liable for the tort in such circumstances, notwithstanding the fact that the contract remains valid until avoided. The fact that it can be avoided should be, in my judgment, in principle a defence to any claim for the tort of wrongful interference with, or wrongfully procuring a breach of, the contract."

I can see a lot of assertion here, but not very much argument/reasoning. I can readily accept (and it is well established) that inducing "breach" of void contract is non-tortious. I can also accept that procuring the termination of determinable contract is non-tortious. But inducing breach of a contract that is valid until it is avoided prior to avoidance? I'm not at all convinced that this right.

I'd be interested to know what others think.

Also, would it be right to see Wayne Rooney as the same kind of CULTURAL hot property that Joanna Wagner was in her day?





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