Halifax RLFC have confirmed that they have instructed their club’s solicitors to apply to the President of the Law Society to appoint an arbitrator to resolve the long standing disputes which continue between the club and Calderdale MBC.
The disputes have been outstanding for more than a year and relate to the activities of the Council in connection with the club’s use and occupation of the pitch and other facilities at The Shay Stadium, a ground they share with football team FC Halifax Town.
The Shay Stadium is owned, managed and maintained by the Council.
Halifax claim the matters came to a head in February when in connection with a claim for allegedly outstanding rent (which was disputed by the Club), the Head of the Council Department with ultimate responsibility for the management of The Shay refused to enter into any negotiations with the club about the dispute.
As the User Agreement (which was drafted and issued by the same Department) contains a provision which requires all issues, which cannot be resolved otherwise, to be referred to arbitration, the club claim they have made repeated requests to the Council to meet their contractual obligations and to agree to the appointment of a fit and proper person to act as arbitrator.
All such requests have been either refused or ignored.
Club Chairman, Michael Steele said: “The situation we face is wholly untenable. Although we have a legally binding agreement, there are those within the Council who seem to believe they can pick and choose which terms they are prepared to apply and which terms they can ignore.”
The statement goes on to say: “In early April, the club’s solicitors, Chadwick Lawrence LLP, formally requested arbitration on behalf of the club and delivered an itemised and costed outline Schedule of Claims arising from what the club’s directors consider to be the Council’s breaches of contract and from the Council’s mismanagement of The Shay facilities. The Directors believe these have cost the club many thousands of pounds in lost revenue.
“The claims cover a variety of issues ranging from the cancellation of home fixtures, to failures to schedule the maintenance of the playing surface at times which minimise disruption to both Clubs’ seasons, the imposition of costly match day obligations, to the unreasonable refusal and alleged appropriation of sponsorship opportunities.
“The Council failed to acknowledge the formal request for arbitration from the Club Solicitors and made no substantive response to the Schedule of Claim
“Given the alleged value of its claim against the Council, all recent payments made by the club have been made with a denial of liability and on a without prejudice basis.
Director, Ian Croad, said: “The Council cannot continue to deny us the revenue lost by its breaches of contract while forcing us, under repeated threat of lock-out from the Shay, to pay what they say we owe when they say we must pay it, without giving us a forum to air our legitimate grievances. We are contractually entitled to seek remedy by way of arbitration and are going to have to do so.”
Dan Hirst, Partner in the Dispute Resolution Department of the Leeds office confirmed that Chadwick Lawrence LLP filed an application on behalf of the club on 7 July 2016, for the President of the Law Society to appoint an Arbitrator.
“We expect the appointment process to take about 3 weeks. After which time the individual appointed will give directions as to how the Arbitration should proceed. “
Chairman Michael Steele summarised the position as follows: “Things should never have been allowed to get to this stage. This is a local issue, which we would much prefer to have resolved, locally. Unfortunately the Councillors we have approached and the Senior Officers who advise them have clearly illustrated by their actions (and inactions), that they have no interest in treating the Club, fairly.”
“Having been forced into this position we will now accept whatever decision is made by the Arbitrator as being conclusive and binding and trust the Council will, belatedly, honour its contractual obligation to do the same.”