(Transfer) Deadline Day

The football transfer window, culminating in ‘deadline day’, comes around twice a year in England. Court deadlines on the other hand, are an everyday challenge experienced by parties in litigation and their lawyers. Below, we look at case ‘gone wrong’ involving Sunderland A.F.C. and their city lawyers at the time.


In 2014, Sunderland A.F.C. signed Ricky Alvarez from Inter Milan, initially on loan, and with a mandatory agreement that the transfer would become permanent if a pre-existing knee injury did not worsen and if Sunderland A.F.C. were to avoid relegation.

During his time with Sunderland A.F.C., Alvarez was advised to have surgery. It was alleged that Inter Milan did not consent to the operation and so the transfer and contract was terminated by Sunderland A.F.C.

As a result, both Inter Milan and Alvarez brought an action through FIFA's resolution chambers, with Sunderland A.F.C. ordered to pay £8.8m plus costs to Inter Milan, and £5m to Alvarez in terms of lost wages.

Separately, Alvarez brought a claim for wrongful termination of his contract, and FIFA’s dispute resolution chamber ordered Sunderland A.F.C. to pay £4.2m plus interest.

Sunderland A.F.C. appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, using a firm of city solicitors to prepare and pursue the appeal.

The Deadline

Sunderland A.F.C.’s solicitors filed an electronic copy of the appeal, but it is alleged by the club that the solicitors failed to file hard copies of the documents within the permitted time, resulting in the club being denied the opportunity to overturn FIFA’s judgments and to obtain a more favourable financial outcome.

Instead, Alvarez’s cross-appeal was allowed and Sunderland A.F.C. were ordered to pay him £4.77m plus £1.1m in interest.

Sunderland A.F.C. therefore brought a claim in negligence against their former solicitors for £20m.

The former solicitors have admitted breaching their duty towards the club in respect of filing the hard copy documents, but say that their breach has not caused any financial loss to the club, as they believe that the appeal would have been dismissed in any event.

The case continues.

Court and Procedural Deadlines

Deadlines are very serious matters and ought to be complied with, unless the agreement of the other parties and / or the court is obtained. There are varying circumstances which can give rise to extensions of time, but the procedural rules and terms of court orders are specific, and advice should be sought when seeking to agree to an extension of time, to ensure that a deadline is not ultimately missed.

In litigation, where a deadline is missed (subject to the type of deadline that it is), a party may have to apply to the court for relief from sanctions pursuant to rule 3.9 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Contact Us

Sunderland A.F.C. avoided relegation that particular season and it is reported that Inter Milan sent an email to Sunderland A.F.C. congratulating the club on their Premier League survival, and also reminding them of their obligation to make Alvarez’s transfer permanent.

Where a court deadline is missed, the party on the wrong side of the deadline could expect to see an email from the innocent party, stating that an application for relief from sanctions would need to be made. Avoid being on the receiving end of such an email by obtaining specialist advice to ensure that you understand exactly what is required by the court, and the steps that you need to carry out in order to comply with the deadline.

We can advise on the court’s processes and procedures, and, in the event of a deadline already having been missed, we can advise on making an application for relief from sanctions, to ask the court to permit your claim or defence in the case to continue.

We can also advise on professional negligence claims against your professional advisors where you believe they have breached their duty towards you and caused you / your organisation financial loss.

You can reach us on 0207 632 4300 or at [email protected].



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