The Court of Appeal has upheld a judgment from the High Court in which an image rights agreement between Wayne Rooney and his former management company was deemed unenforceable due to it being an unreasonable restraint of trade.
The High Court had previously held that the agreement, which was entered into in January 2003, imposed “substantial restraints upon Mr Rooney’s freedom to exploit his earning ability over a very long period of time on terms which were not commonplace in the market”. The Court determined that the management company could not rely on the agreement to recover any amounts which would have fallen due under the agreement, nor could it sue for damages for breach of contract when Rooney terminated the agreement in late 2009.
The management company appealed to the Court of Appeal on a number of points, the main one being that the conclusion of the agreement being unenforceable was wrong as a matter of law because Rooney’s trade was as a footballer and the image rights agreement was only a means of obtaining extra income and not his trade per se.
The appeal judge rejected both arguments stating that the public policy element behind the restraint of trade doctrine was concerned with the manner in which a person could properly realise their potential for the economic benefit of society generally.