PARTICK THISTLE are set to take their compensation claim against former manager Jackie McNamara to the Scottish Football Association for arbitration.
And Firhill chairman David Beattie has maintained his club are prepared to incur legal expenses in the dispute with McNamara and his new club Dundee United that would not be offset by any settlement because they value “morality” over any monetary return on a “point of principle”.
Beattie believes his club have been “wronged” through not receiving the £80,000 required for McNamara to free himself from his Thistle contract and take up the manager’s post at United, which he did on 30 January. The move took place following fruitless negotiations between Beattie and his United counterpart Stephen Thompson over a compensation package relating to McNamara’s switch.
Thistle initially requested the full £80,000 up front while United proposed various payment schedules – some believed to run into 12 months – to cover the sum on McNamara’s behalf. Thistle have subsequently stated they will accept £60,000 with lawyers acting for McNamara offering £50,000 and submitting a counter-claim for a win bonus in the wake of the club being promoted to the Scottish Premier League as First Division champions.
“We’ve been trying over the months to get resolution to this and we’re not getting there, so we’ll take all the legal steps open to us, either through the SFA or the courts,” said Beattie in Thistle’s first public pronouncement on the matter. “Our legal people are speaking to the SFA now. We can go to arbitration – that’s the SFA’s preferred route with football matters, that we go through that first. But we will also be pursuing the legal rights as well.
“For us the whole process has been about openness, honesty, shaking hands, doing a deal and delivering that. That has changed and I personally feel sad and disappointed,” he said.
“I got a phone call from Dundee United to say they wanted to have a chat with Jackie McNamara and that compensation would not be a problem. Then when they were interested in Jackie it became a problem and became a protected payment plan. I was told that was the way football is done. Well, it’s not the way Partick Thistle do it. Maybe that’s the problem with football. Maybe the morals of football should be put into question. We believe it should be honest, fair, and a deal is a deal. If I sell you my house I don’t give you my house and then ask to be paid over the next year or two years. We are never going to hold back a manager or player who wants to better his career. All we ask is that in an eventuality like this – and it will happen again – is that what the club puts down in black and white is honoured. In the contract it was £80,000 to be paid in 90 days.
“We were then prepared to accept £60,000 because the whole process has been sad and disappointing and I want to draw a line under it and concentrate on Partick Thistle getting into the SPL. It’s not about [legal] costs. It’s about right and wrong and we feel we’ve been wronged. It is sad [if people see our stance as naive]. Business morality means an awful lot to the board here at Partick Thistle. Just because it’s the norm in football, it’s not something we’re going to follow. Our morals are more important than £80,000.”
Essentially the issue has become about £10,000 – the difference between what Thistle are willing to accept and United have offered. Beattie would not comment on whether he felt there was an attempt to “bully” his club in the original sum having already dropped down by £20,000. He said it was for others to judge whether new lawyers for McNamara – who he says he likes personally and believes could manage in the English Premier League one day – had attempted to muddy the water in issuing a claim for a league winning bonus, with Alan Archibald and Scott Paterson the management team for the final three months of the season following the departure of McNamara and his No.2 Simon Donnelly.
“I have to watch what I’m saying here,” Beattie stated. “Firstly I think it’s disrespectful to Archie and the management team at Partick Thistle that that claim has come in. Archie won the league for us. Jackie started it, Archie finished it.”
United chairman Thompson believes the rejection of an early package by Thistle denied them precisely the outcome they said they sought. “Our initial offer of £40,000 there and then and £40,000 by 30 April would have given them the full amount of their clause within the 90-day period. They turned that down though,” he said.
“The reality is in football I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a deal which wasn’t structured in some way. As an example, the David Goodwillie transfer was paid over 11 months. I obviously can’t speak on behalf of Jackie, but the legal advice we have been given is that the clause is not enforceable. However as a show of good faith from our board, we did then offer £40,000 to settle it. They wanted £60,000 and despite a further offer to find middle ground, as you do in a negotiation, they have so far refused.”