English Football League Wins Token Damages in TV Suit

The Football League recently won token damages of 4 pounds (euro5.82; US$7.35) against the law firm that advised it on a disastrous television deal, but faces a bill for an estimated 5 million pounds (euro7.3 million US$9.2 million) in legal costs.

A High Court judge in London ruled that the league was aware of the risks of the deal, and was responsible for its own losses.

The Football League, which represents the three divisions below England’s premiership, had sought damages of 150 million pounds (euro218 million; US$275 million) for professional negligence from the law firm of Edge Ellison, now known as Hammond Solicitors.

Broadcaster ITV Digital collapsed in 2002 because it couldn’t meet payments on its 140 million-pound (euro204 million; US$257 million) deal with the Football League.

The Football League lost a suit to recover the money from ITV Digital’s parents, Carlton Communications PLC and Granada PLC. The Football League then sued its legal advisers for failing to secure a payment guarantee from Carlton and Granada.

In the High Court, Justice Colin Rimer ruled that there had been two breaches of duty, but that neither caused substantial damage.

Rimer ruled that the Football League’s Commercial Committee knew there was a risk of ITV Digital’s becoming insolvent, and effectively decided not to seek guarantees from the parent companies.

“Is the (lawyer) supposed to review the whole range of commercial considerations that underlie a particular deal, work out which ones he is concerned the client may not have given sufficient thought to and remind him about them? In my opinion the answer is no,” Rimer said in his judgment.