Manchester City Football Club Ltd v The Football Association Premier League Ltd & Others

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeSir Julian Flaux C,Lord Justice Males
Judgment Date20 July 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] EWCA Civ 1110
Docket NumberCase Nos: A4/2021/0615 & A4/2021/0617

[2021] EWCA Civ 1110

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND AND WALES

(COMMERCIAL COURT, QBD)

MOULDER J

[2021] EWHC 711 (Comm)

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Sir Geoffrey Vos

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS

- and -

Sir Julian Flaux

THE CHANCELLOR OF THE HIGH COURT

- and -

Lord Justice Males

Case Nos: A4/2021/0615 & A4/2021/0617

Between:
Manchester City Football Club Ltd
Appellant
and
The Football Association Premier League Ltd & Others
Respondent

Lord Pannick QC, Paul Harris QC and David Gregory (instructed by Clifford Chance LLP) for the Appellant

Adam Lewis QC and Andrew Hunter QC (instructed by Bird & Bird LLP) for the Respondents (by written submissions only)

Hearing date: Wednesday 30 June 2021

Approved Judgment

Sir Julian Flaux C

Introduction

1

Manchester City Football Club Limited (“the Club”) appeals, with the permission of Males LJ granted on 14 April 2021, against the Order of Moulder J dated 23 March 2021 that her Merits Judgment and Publication Judgment (as defined hereafter) should be published other than to the parties. The appeal concerns the circumstances in which judgments of the Court on applications under sections 67 and 68 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (“the Arbitration Act”) should be published or should remain private, applying the principles set out by this Court in City of Moscow v Bankers Trust [2004] EWCA Civ 314; [2005] QB 207 (hereafter “ City of Moscow”). There is also a preliminary question as to whether, given the terms of the relevant provisions of the Arbitration Act, this Court has jurisdiction to hear the present appeal, permission to appeal against the Order of 23 March 2021 having been refused by the judge.

Factual background

2

The Football Association Premier League Limited (“the PL”) is a company in which the shareholders are the clubs playing in the Premier League in a particular season (“the member clubs”). The relationship between the PL and the member clubs is governed by the articles of association and the Rules of the PL (“the Rules”).

3

In December 2018, the PL commenced a disciplinary investigation into the Club after allegations about the Club appeared in various European media reports which disclosed details of confidential documents obtained from a hack of the Club's email servers. The PL contends that the media reports contain information suggesting breaches of the Rules by the Club. During the course of its investigation, the PL requested information and documents from the Club (including copies of various documents identified in those media reports) under Rule W.1. The Club objected to disclosure of that material.

4

The allegations in the media reports led to The Union of European Football Associations (“UEFA”) commencing on 7 March 2019 a formal investigation into the Club over alleged breaches of UEFA's financial fair play (“FFP”) regulations.

5

The following day, 8 March 2019, the PL announced that it had also commenced an investigation into the same allegations, releasing the following statement:

“The Premier League has previously contacted Manchester City to request information regarding recent allegations and is in ongoing dialogue with the club. The league has detailed financial regulations and strong rules in the areas of academy player recruitment and third-party ownership. We are investigating and will allow Manchester City every opportunity to explain the context and detail surrounding them.”

6

Subsequent developments in the UEFA investigation have been widely reported in the media and have been publicly commented on by both the Club and the PL. That investigation initially led to the Club being banned from UEFA's European club competitions for two years as well as being fined €30 million, but the ban was overturned and the fine reduced to €10 million by a tribunal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) in July 2020. It has been reported that, whilst the CAS tribunal held that the most serious allegations against the Club could either not be proved or were time barred, the reduced fine was upheld on the basis that the Club had breached UEFA's regulations by failing to co-operate with the investigation.

7

Apart from the PL's statement on 8 March 2019, neither the PL nor the Club has publicly commented on the PL's investigation. By a letter dated 18 July 2019 to the Club's then solicitors, the PL's solicitors confirmed that the investigation process was confidential and both parties had made strenuous efforts to ensure that this was so, for example by the use of secure file transfer technology.

8

On 21 August 2019, the PL issued a disciplinary complaint against the Club under Section W seeking disclosure of certain documents and information. A Commission was appointed pursuant to Rule W.21, but its composition and the disciplinary system were challenged by the Club as not sufficiently independent or impartial. Although the PL proposed an ad hoc procedure for the appointment of a new Commission, the Club objected.

9

By a request dated 22 October 2019, the PL then commenced an arbitration against the Club under Section X of the Rules seeking a declaration and/or determination that the Club was obliged to provide the PL with requested documents and information and an order for specific performance of the Club's contractual obligation to deliver up documents and information which were being withheld. Under Rule X.8 then in force, the PL provided a list of people who were on a panel from which arbitrators were to be appointed (“the Panel”). The Club appointed John Machell QC from the Panel and the PL Daniel Alexander QC, and, in accordance with the Rules, the two arbitrators then appointed a chairman, Philip Havers QC.

10

The Club challenged the jurisdiction of the arbitrators, submitting to the tribunal that, on a proper construction of the Rules, the PL had no power to institute a Section X arbitration in respect of its information claim. Accordingly it was submitted that the tribunal lacked substantive jurisdiction and the arbitration could not proceed. It was also submitted that the tribunal did not have the appearance of impartiality.

11

On 6 February 2020, the Rules relating to the disciplinary and dispute resolution procedures were amended at a meeting of the shareholders.

12

By its Award dated 2 June 2020, the arbitration tribunal rejected the Club's challenge to its jurisdiction and impartiality and held that it had substantive jurisdiction to hear the PL's claim and that it did not lack the appearance of impartiality.

13

On 26 June 2020, the Club then issued an application by an Arbitration Claim in the Commercial Court contending that:

(1) the tribunal lacked jurisdiction because, on the true construction of the Rules, the PL did not have the power to institute the arbitration under Section X (“the Section 67 Challenge”);

(2) the tribunal was tainted with apparent bias due to the process for appointment and reappointment to the Panel from which arbitrators could be appointed to tribunals for arbitrations instituted under Section X (“the Section 68 Challenge”); and

(3) the arbitrators should accordingly be removed under section 24 of the Arbitration Act.

14

Before that application was heard, the arbitration continued. On 24 July 2020, the tribunal rejected the Club's arguments resisting the PL's case that it was under an obligation to provide certain documents and information to the PL. Accordingly, on 2 November 2020, the tribunal ordered the Club to provide certain documents and information to the PL and to make enquiries of third parties. That order was stayed pending the hearing of the Club's application to the Commercial Court.

15

The hearing of the Club's application before the judge on 1 and 2 March 2021 was in private pursuant to CPR 62.10. In her judgment dated 17 March 2021 (“the Merits Judgment”) the judge dismissed the application. In relation to the Section 67 Challenge, she concluded that the language of Rule X.2 which permitted “all disputes” to be referred to arbitration is not limited by Section W of the Rules (which concern the powers of the PL to deal with suspected or alleged breaches of the Rules). In relation to the Section 68 Challenge she concluded that applying the decision of the Supreme Court in Halliburton Company v Chubb Bermuda Insurance Ltd [2020] UKSC 48 (hereafter “ Halliburton”), the matters relied on by the Club (the remuneration of the arbitrators from being on the Panel, the process by which they were appointed to the Panel under the Rules and the control by the PL over reappointment, so the arbitrators lacked security of tenure) did not satisfy the test that a fair minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that the arbitrators were biased. Accordingly the section 24 application was also dismissed.

16

By her Order dated 17 March 2021, the judge dismissed the Arbitration Claim and refused permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, giving as her reasons: (i) that the construction issue was decided on the basis of the application of the principles in Wood v Capita Insurance Services Ltd [2017] UKSC 24; (ii) that there was no other compelling reason for an appeal as the implications for other clubs was limited since as members of the PL they collectively had power to change the Rules and (iii) that the issue of apparent bias had been decided applying the test of general application approved and having regard to the features of arbitration identified by the Supreme Court in Halliburton.

The judgment under appeal

17

When the judge sent out the draft of the Merits Judgment to the parties to provide typographical corrections, the covering email indicated that she was minded to publish that judgment. Both parties provided written submissions on the issue of publication...

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2 cases
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    • Queen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
    • 7 December 2021
    ...to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Manchester City Football Club Limited v The Football Association Premier League Limited [2021] EWCA Civ 1110 and the observations of Males LJ at [65] that: “public scrutiny of the way in which the court exercises its jurisdiction to set aside or re......
  • Cde v Nop
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 14 December 2021
    ...Policy and Development of the City of Moscow v Bankers Trust Co [2004] EWCA Civ 314, [2005] QB 207 and Manchester City Football Club v Football Association Premier League Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 1110). 30 In other respects the question of arbitral confidentiality was deliberately left to the......

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