Reference:  1 WLR 302
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Slade J
Date of judgment: 25 Nov 1978
Summary: Sports law - Restraint of Trade - Employment - Cricketers - Validity of contracts - whether inducement to cricketers to break contracts with promoter - Industrial Relations - Whether "employers' association" immune from legal proceedings - Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 (c. 52), ss. 14, 28 (2)
Patrick Milmo QC (Defendant)
James Price QC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Linklaters & Paines; Halsey, Lightly & Hemsley
The ICC controlled test cricket and had the exclusive power to regulate the qualification rules for cricketers to play in test matches. A private promoter engaged 34 test cricketers to play in an autumn and winter series in Australia. The ICC then changed the qualification rules for test cricketers so that no player could play in a match disapproved of by the ICC without the ICC’s express permission. The ICC then passed a resolution disapproving of matches organised by the private promoter. The TCCB (the body that regulates county cricket) followed suit: players subject to the test match ban would also be disqualified from county cricket. 3 cricketers brought proceedings against TCCB and ICC seeking a declaration that the rules were in restraint of trade. The promoter also sued the Defendants for unlawful inducement to breach of contract. The claims were heard together.
Whether (i) the relevant contracts were void or voidable or (ii) the defendants were immune under s. 14 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 as ’employer’s associations, and, if not, whether the Claimants were entitled to declarations that the rule changes were (a) in restraint of trade and (b) amounted to an unlawful inducement to breach of contract.
(i) The contracts between the promoter and the Claimants were to be treated as valid and enforcable.
(ii) Although the Defendants had acted in good faith they had committed a tortious act inducing a breach of contract, and had done so having full knowledge of the contracts.
(ii) Neither the ICC nor the TCCB had shown that the bans were reasonable and the Claimants were entitled to declarations that the rules were ultra vires and void.
(iv) The defendants were not protected from liability in tort by section 14 of the TULRA 1974. The ICC did not consist “wholly or mainly” of employers and was not an ’employers’ association’ within the meaning of s. 28(2)(a) the Act. Nor was the TCCB. It was ‘not constituted for the purpose of regulating relations between the employers and employees and, under its rules, it was not responsible to its members but to the Cricket Council.’
A ground-breaking decision of its time, and another step on the road towards much greater player power in sports than had customarily been the case in previous decades.