Foul play? Football club sues college

The club says the college failed to pay more than £110,000 to use football facilities

The club says the college failed to pay more than £110,000 to use football facilities

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A London college is being sued amid allegations that it ignored a six-figure debt owed to a football club for use of its pitches and coaches, FE Week can reveal.

As part of its football apprenticeship programme, Stanmore College students were able to use training pitches belonging to Barnet FC’s academy, while the academy provided coaching staff to deliver football skills and fitness sessions to students.

The academy also provided learners with analysis and medical services, and managed their matches within an affiliated league.

But High Court documents seen by FE Week show that Barnet’s academy and Amber Football Centre, a community football venue owned by Barnet FC’s chairman, alleged that Stanmore College breached an agreement to pay more than £110,000 for those services.

The club has now attempted to sue Stanmore College for £168,180. This comprises three unpaid invoices, interest on the late payment and additional compensation. 

After nearly a year of negotiation, the case has been suspended in the hope that it can be resolved out of court – with mediation scheduled for next month.

In email exchanges dating back to 2015, the college’s former principal Jacqui Mace and representatives of the football academy agreed that the college would pay the academy to use its facilities via “block pitch bookings”.

Barnet FC’s academy then sent Stanmore College three invoices worth a combined £112,900 the following year, to cover the training costs.

Despite the repeated invoices, Stanmore College both “failed and refuses” to pay any of them, the court documents reveal.

Mace left the college in December 2015 amid accusations from the then-FE Commissioner that there was a “lack of confidence in [her] ability to lead the college going forward”. The commissioner also put Stanmore College into administered status at the time due to significant financial concerns.

The college argued that the emails from Mace “do not establish any valid and enforceable agreement relating to the claimants” – insisting the former principal did not make that agreement on behalf of the college. Instead, the college argued Mace sent those emails on behalf of Stanmore Training Company Limited, a college-run firm which provided bespoke training and apprenticeship services for the college.

That firm was then dissolved in December 2016.

Stanmore College also alleged that the emails do not show “offer and acceptance” of the deal, as the final email just “provided for further discussion” between Mace and Barnet FC’s then academy manager, Henry Newman.

Master Iain Pester, the judge in charge, suspended the court case in February so that it could be settled by “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). Representatives of the college and football club have agreed to a mediation day on July 27, 2023, according to a spokesperson for Stanmore College.

By settling the dispute in this way, both the college and football club will be able to avoid the high costs associated with a drawn-out legal case.

In a joint statement, Barnet FC Academy and Amber Football Centre said they were “not in a position to comment further” as the ADR process is ongoing. “However, we hope that the matter will soon be resolved,” they added.

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