Rooney wins picture deal appeal
Senior judges have ruled that an image rights representation agreement a sports management firm made with football star Wayne Rooney when he was a teenager with "stellar potential" was an unreasonable restraint of trade.
Three appeal judges concluded that the agreement Rooney made with Proactive in 2003, when he was 17, was legally "unenforceable".
Proactive Sports Management no longer represents the 26-year-old Manchester United and England striker or his wife Coleen. But the firm said it was owed commission payments and made a £4.3 million claim.
Last year Judge Brendan Hegarty QC ruled against Proactive following a hearing at Manchester Mercantile Court. Appeal judges Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Gross said they agreed with Judge Hegarty's conclusion that the agreement was "unenforceable as being in unreasonable restraint of trade".
Lady Justice Arden said Rooney signed the agreement with Proactive in January 2003, when playing for Everton. "A crucial point is that Wayne Rooney was only 17 years old when this agreement was signed and relatively new to the world of professional football," she said. "The term of the (agreement) was much longer than the norm."
Lady Justice Arden added: "(Rooney) and his parents were wholly unsophisticated in legal and commercial matters. His parents were not advised to take independent legal advice and they did not take such advice. It underscores the inequality of bargaining power between the parties. Moreover, it predisposes the agreement to a finding that it was one-sided, unfair or oppressive."
Judge Hegarty heard that Rooney was signed for Proactive by agent Paul Stretford - and agreed a deal due to run for eight years. Mrs Rooney also "turned to Proactive and Mr Stretford" for assistance "in developing the commercial opportunities which began to come her way".
Rooney's solicitor Mr Hughes said the appeal judges had decided the footballer did not need to pay Proactive any more than the £5,000 Judge Hegarty ordered. However Proactive disagreed, saying suggestions that its award against Rooney's image rights company would be limited to £5,000 were "completely unfounded".
It issued a statement through its legal representatives in which it said: "Proactive is delighted that its appeal in relation to Coleen Rooney's image rights succeeded in full. This will result in substantial further payments being paid to the company for the work that it previously performed in good faith and with considerable success.
"The company believes the allegations of 'exploitation' in this context are unfair and wide of the mark. Indeed a reading of the court's judgment makes this clear. In truth this was a dispute between agents and not against Mr and Mrs Rooney personally. Proactive believes that it served Mr and Mrs Rooney with skill and effort and contributed to their considerable financial success. All the company has wanted is fair reward for the work that it has done."