Proform Sports Management Ltd v Proactive Sports Managment Ltd & Stretford
Reference:  EWHC 2903 (Ch);  1 All ER 542
Court: Chancery Division, Manchester District Registry
Judge: HHJ Hodge QC
Date of judgment: 26 Jul 2006
Summary: Sports law - Contract - Procuring breach of contract - Unlawful interference with contractual relations - Minor - Voidable contract - Contract for necessaries
Instructing Solicitors: Quinn Barrow for the Claimants; Halliwells LLP for the Defendants
Claimant football agent entered into a representation agreement with Wayne Rooney when he was 15 years old. In June 2002, the player and his parents wrote to C stating they would not renew the agreement when it expired in December 2002. Three days after the expiry of the agreement, the player entered into a new representation agreement with the Defendant. C brought proceedings against the new agent for unlawful interference with and/or the procuring of a breach of contract. D applied for summary judgment on the grounds that as a matter of law there was no liability for inducing the breach of a voidable contract with a minor.
(i) Whether there can be liability for inducing the breach of a voidable contract with a minor; and (ii) whether the contract in issue (a football agent’s representation agreement) fell within the class of contracts which were enforceable against a minor.
Granting summary judgment to the Defendant:
(1) There could be no liability for inducing the breach of a voidable contract with a minor. If the contract was one which the minor was entitled to lawfully terminate, then there was no breach.
(2) The only contracts which are binding on a minor are contracts for ‘necessaries’ – either necessary goods/services supplied or contracts for the minor’s benefit (eg. contracts of apprenticeship or education). The contract in issue – where C was to act as the player’s agent and carried out functions of personal representation – was not analagous to a contract for necessaries. Players’ agents did not undertake matters essential to a player’s training or livelihood. The agreement was a voidable contract and was not binding on the player who was a minor.
(3) The C had no real prospect of establishing that the agreement was a contract for necessaries. The player was entitled to avoid the contract and the D could not be liable for inducing breach.
In the modern world where talented footballers who are minors (such as Wayne Rooney) can rise very quickly in terms of profile and attain high levels of income, agents will be anxious to try to keep such players under contract. This case is highly significant because it illustrates that so long as the player is a minor a bare representation agreement that is not a contract for necessaries can be avoided by the minor. At first sight, it may appear a harsh decision but it needs to be remembered that minors (especially those who have the potential to earn a great deal as footballers) are vulnerable particularly at the start of their career. It is an important matter of public policy that minors in such circumstances should be protected from exploitation and one of the unfortunate consequences for the honest agent is that such contracts are treated as voidable.