Rooney goes from striker to defender inbattle over £4.3m lawsuit
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney played a starring role yesterday in the defence of his agent. The England star was battling a £4.3 million legal suit.
Rooney (24) insisted that Paul Stretford, who was previously convicted of misconduct charges and banned by the Football Association from working as an agent, was the man he wanted to lead negotiations with Manchester United over his new contract.
The England star was appearing at Manchester Mercantile Court.
He and his wife Coleen and two of their companies are being sued by Stretford's former company, Proactive.
The dispute over contracts came about after Stretford left the company in 2008.
He set up his own firm and Rooney, who was signed up by Stretford when he was a 17-year-old at Everton, verbally agreed to carry his contracts over to this firm.
The young football prodigy was signed by Stretford in 2002 when he was just 17 and playing for Everton.
Stretford, a founder and |director of Proactive, went on to broker multimillion-pound deals for Rooney with high-end firms including Nike and Coca-Cola.
Later, he also took Rooney's wife under his wing when her celebrity status exploded |following the player's transfer to Manchester United in 2004.
But trouble began in October 2008 when Stretford left the firm in acrimony.
Last year, he set up another company and Rooney agreed to carry his contracts over to this firm.
Proactive is claiming that the contract Stretford signed with the Rooneys while he was at the firm means that it is entitled to further commission payments amounting to £4.3m.
Yesterday in court, Rooney remained loyal to Stretford.
Asked by Ian Mill QC, for Proactive, whether he believed Stretford had been treated badly, the footballer sprang to his defence.
Mr Mill asked the player to |recall that his agent had been investigated by the FA in 2008 and things “did not go well” for Stretford as he was found guilty of a number of misconduct charges.
The lawyer reminded Rooney his agent appealed against the decision by the FA — but his |appeal was rejected.
“And doubtless he still |maintained his innocence?” Mr Mill asked. “Of course,” Rooney replied.
“Of course because you |trusted him implicitly?” Mr Mill said.
“Yes,” replied the footballer.
Mr Mill told Rooney that at around the same time the FA investigated Mr Stretford, his employers Proactive terminated his contract.
“Doubtless he said he felt he had been treated very badly?” Mr Mill said.
“He told you his side of the story and you accepted it?”
“Yes,” Rooney again replied.
“After he left Proactive, you continued to believe and put your trust in Mr Stretford?” Mr Mill asked.
“Yes,” the witness said.
Mr Mill continued: “You felt he had negotiated very good contracts for you with both Everton and Manchester United and first class sponsors.
“He had helped make you a very wealthy young man and you were extremely grateful to him.”
Rooney agreed he felt Mr Stretford should get the £4.3m in commission payments, not Proactive, and that the firm had treated his agent badly.
“What if the court was to find Mr Stretford had not been telling you the truth?” Mr Mill said.
He asked Rooney to “suppose” that the court was to find the FA was justified in banning Mr Stretford and right to dismiss his appeal, and that Proactive was fully justified in dismissing him from his job.
“If that was the case, would that in any way be likely to affect your attitude to whether or not Mr Stretford should get commission from you?” he asked.
“Er, has that actually happened?” Rooney replied. “I didn't think Proactive could provide the services. Nobody from Proactive called me to say ‘we can provide the services for you'.”
That was because Rooney's lawyers had told Proactive |not to contact him, Mr Mill |said.
Rooney replied: “Before Mr Stretford was basically sacked from the company, nobody explained he was going to be sacked and that they could still do things for me.”
The court heard that as well as squaring sponsorship deals with global brands for the Croxteth-born player, Stretford provided “round the clock assistance”.
“My football career and football stuff has to come first,” Rooney said.
“Then obviously when I have days when I have got my commercial stuff they make sure everything is done right and set up properly and day-to-day life with my wife and child, stuff that's in the newspapers, they deal with all that.”
The court was adjourned to Monday.