Craig Levein slaps writ on SFA and sets up bitter battle

Craig Levein: Relieved of duties
Craig Levein: Relieved of duties
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A COSTLY and bitter legal battle is in prospect following the decision of former national manager Craig Levein to issue a writ against the Scottish Football Association.

Levein has accused his ex-employers of failing to honour his contract, while the SFA has responded by saying it offered to fulfil the deal in its entirety when it relieved him of his duties early last month.

The SFA decided that Levein’s time as Scotland manager should come to an end only after weeks of deliberation.

The axe fell on 5 November with Scotland bottom of their World Cup qualifying group, and it was announced that under-21 coach Billy Stark would take interim charge of the senior national side.

It was said then that, although Levein had been removed from his post, he remained an SFA employee and would continue to be paid for the remainder of his contract, which ran until the summer of 2014. But it became clear only a week later that matters between the two parties were not as harmonious as that explanation suggested, and that Levein was taking legal advice. The outcome of that advice was revealed yesterday, in a statement from the former manager’s representatives.

“Mr Levein is very disappointed that the SFA have not honoured his contract,” it read. “He has waited until now in the hope that commonsense and dignity would prevail. However, as no proposals have been forthcoming he now has no alternative but to 
approach the matter through legal channels.

“Mr Levein remains anxious to avoid what could turn into a long and costly exercise for both parties. He believes that the members of the SFA should now encourage their executives to reach a conclusion based on the very clear agreements and 
commitments entered into by the parties.

“For the record and contrary to some reports, Mr Levein has not received one penny from the SFA since his departure.”

It is understood that some legal sources urged Levein to begin action sooner but that he delayed in the hope of coming to an agreement which, if not exactly amicable, would at least avoid court action. He believed he had a good working relationship with SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, and is understood to have found it hard to comprehend why Regan could not behave in what he, Levein, regarded as a decent manner.

Besides contradicting reports which stated that Levein would continue to receive his SFA salary, the former Hearts and Dundee United manager’s advisers are also unconvinced by the SFA’s suggestion that he would remain an employee. Their argument is that, as his job was that of national coach, when he was removed from that post he was effectively left in limbo, with no attempt being made to offer him meaningful work elsewhere in the organisation.

The statement on the SFA’s website offered a different interpretation of several of the issues referred to by Levein’s representatives. “Regrettably, the Scottish FA has received notification from lawyers representing Craig Levein that their client has served a writ on the Association,” it read. “This notification has been received despite the Scottish FA’s offer to honour Craig’s contract in full, an offer that was made immediately upon the Board’s decision to relieve Craig of his duties on November 5, 2012.

“The Scottish FA has since received notification that Craig has chosen to resign, thereby foregoing [sic] the offer made to honour his contract in full. In the notification received, failure to make a proposal in lieu of compensation has been cited. It is the view of the Scottish FA that no such offer is required given Craig’s decision to resign, especially since an offer of mediation was rejected by his legal representatives.”

As long as both sides stick to the positions outlined yesterday, there appear to be no grounds for compromise and therefore no alternative to court action.

Levein does not accept that he resigned and is expected to argue that the SFA’s failure to honour his contract was tantamount to constructive dismissal, no matter what anyone within Hampden might have said about alternative roles within the organisation.

For its part, the SFA could say that an offer to honour Levein’s contract in full was more than reasonable. It would then be up to the legal authorities to decide whether to believe the governing body’s assertion that such an offer had been made, or to accept Levein’s insistence that the SFA had failed to honour his contract.

Meanwhile, Scotland will finish 2012 in a lowly 72nd spot in the Fifa rankings, despite starting the year in 47th. Their new position has seen them fall below nations such as Uzbekistan, Sierra Leone, Canada and the Cape Verde Islands, but they have at least managed to steer clear of their worst-ever ranking of 88th.

England remain sixth, while Wales have dropped 16 places to 82nd. Chris Coleman’s men have endured a poor year with just one win over Scotland coming in between six defeats, which has left their chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup all but extinguished. They have fallen behind fellow Group A strugglers Scotland, while Republic of Ireland have fallen six spots to 42nd.

Northern Ireland are the only home nations side to improve upon their ranking. Michael O’Neill’s side rose 17 places in the last rankings – into the top 100 – and their improvement continues this month, rising four places to 96th.

Spain finish the year in the top spot, with Germany and Argentina remaining in second and third respectively, while Italy move into fourth spot. A run of six successive victories has hoisted Colombia from 36th at the end of last year into the top five, while Brazil have slumped to 18th.

Fifa rankings: 1 Spain, 2 Germany, 3 Argentina, 4 Italy, 5 Colombia, 6 England, 7 Portugal, 8 Netherlands, 9 Russia, 10 Croatia, 11. Greece, 12 Switzerland, 13 Ecuador, 14 Ivory Coast, 15 Mexico, 16 Uruguay, 17 France, 18 Brazil, 19 Algeria, 20 Sweden. Others: 42 Republic of Ireland, 72 Scotland, 82 Wales, 96 Northern Ireland.