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It would appear that Paolo Di Canio repeated his public criticism of his Sunderland players after their defeat at West Brom on Saturday and was summarily dismissed by the club.

Sunderland may have been worried that valuable players could have walked off or worse (terminated their contracts) in response to public criticisms by their employer but according to specialist law firm Littlejohn ‘ the relationships between the players and manager [might] irretrievably broken down.’  Employment law recognises such situations, in particular the entitlement of the employer to dismiss the relevant employee (albeit with notice) where one person’s personality actually or potentially effects the proper functioning of the team.  In Perkin v. St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust [2005] IRLR 934 (CA) the court of appeal was required to decide if this was a conduct issue (i.e. followed by way of disciplinary process) or one that goes to the heart of the contract and is automatically fair reason for for dismissal.

…. Mr Perkin was employed by the Trust from September 1986 until December 2002. as Director of Finance, evidently a responsible job that required him both to manage a group of employees underneath him and to co-operate with senior colleagues at the same level and above.  In a nutshell the difficulties arose around his inter-relation with colleagues and of management style. Things came to a head in July 2002 when Mr Perkin was on holiday. On the day that he returned from holiday, Monday 29 July 2002, Ms McLoughlin held a meeting with KPMG during which it was noted that she informed KPMG that “she wanted an exit strategy in place for Mr Perkin by the end of July 2002”. On the same day according to the findings of the Employment Tribunal which are not in dispute the Chief Executive Mr Hamilton summoned Mr. Perkin to a meeting without prior warning and asked him to resign with immediate effect. He declined to do so.  His dismissal was seen as fair under conduct some other substantial reason (SOSR).


The Littleton Sports Group regularly acts and advises clubs, players, managers and agents on a wide-range of employment, commercial and disciplinary-related disputes. For more information contact ttarring@littletonchambers.com