Richard Keogh awarded £2.3m in breach of contract case against Derby

Ireland defender has wrongful dismissal case upheld on appeal

Richard Keogh in action for Huddersfield Town in the Championship game against Coventry City  at the John Smith’s Stadium on  May 1st. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire

Richard Keogh in action for Huddersfield Town in the Championship game against Coventry City at the John Smith’s Stadium on May 1st. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire

 

Republic of Ireland international Richard Keogh has secured a payout of about £2.3 million (€2.65 million) from Derby County after winning his long-running compensation claim against them. The 34-year-old defender, who finished the season at Huddersfield, brought an action for breach of contract in the wake of his sacking by Derby in October 2019.

Keogh had sustained serious knee ligament injuries when he was in the car that his then team-mate Tom Lawrence crashed into a lamppost after a night out in September of that year. He was dismissed by Derby for gross misconduct. His contract with them, worth a basic £24,000 a week plus bonuses, was due to run until June 2021.

Keogh went to the EFL’s Player Related Dispute Commission [PRDC], where he won a full payout only for Derby to contest the decision at the League Appeals’ Committee [LAC]. The process has been marked by delays, caused in part by the pandemic, but the LAC last week upheld the original verdict.

An EFL statement read: “The LAC has heard and dismissed an appeal under the regulations of the EFL by Derby against the decision of the PRDC in the case of Richard Keogh. The PDRC held that Mr Keogh had not committed gross misconduct, that he had not brought the club into serious disrepute and that he had been wrongly dismissed by the club.”

The car crash happened after a team-bonding day. Lawrence was over the drink-drive limit and so was Mason Bennett, now of Millwall, who had driven off ahead. When Bennett stopped his car at a give-way line, Lawrence went into the back of him before careering into the lamppost. They fled the scene, leaving Keogh unconscious.

Lawrence and Bennett admitted drink-driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident when they appeared at Derby magistrates court. They avoided jail sentences but each was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid community service and banned from driving for two years. Despite their criminal convictions, Derby chose not to sack them, although they did fine them. Both were unhurt in the incident.

Keogh, who would be out of action for 12 months, had been told by Derby that he could stay and see out his contract but they stunned him by saying that he had to accept a massive pay cut to do so. When he refused, Derby dismissed him with immediate effect. Keogh had to make an initial appeal against the decision to Derby, which was thrown out, before he entered into the EFL’s legal framework.

Keogh played at Derby for seven and a bit seasons, starting 316 of 330 Championship matches plus all 10 of the club’s playoff ties. He joined MK Dons in League One last August, making his debut in September, before moving to Huddersfield in January on a deal until the end of the season. The Harlow-born player won the last of his 26 Ireland caps in the 1-1 draw at home to Switzerland in September 2019, a month before the car accident.

The Derby owner, Mel Morris, is trying to sell the club to No Limits Sports, which is fronted by the Spanish businessman Erik Alonso. Under the management of Wayne Rooney the team avoided relegation on the final day of the Championship season on Saturday when they drew 3-3 at home to Sheffield Wednesday and had another result – Rotherham’s 1-1 draw at Cardiff – go in their favour.

Derby, meanwhile, are to face sanctions from the EFL after the league won an appeal against a previously dismissed misconduct charge. It is not clear whether any punishment would be applied to this season or next, with the EFL saying there was “no definitive timescale” for proceedings.

An independent league arbitration panel concluded a disciplinary commission was wrong to dismiss the EFL’s expert accountancy evidence which stated Derby’s valuation of player registrations was contrary to standard accounting rules.

The original disciplinary commission had concluded the club did not adequately disclose in its financial statements the nature and/or effect of its change in accounting policy and there has been no appeal against that decision. Derby and the EFL will have the opportunity to make submissions on the appropriate sanction arising out of those breaches. – Guardian

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