Following Mason Greenwood’s arrest for suspected sexual assault, rape and threat to kill, the Manchester United player lost his Nike sponsorship deal and has not been seen at the club’s training ground since his arrest. In the Mail Online and reproduced here, Head of Employment Joseph Lappin considers some of the legal implications of Greenwood’s case for both player and club.
Mason Greenwood was dropped from his Nike sponsorship deal without receiving a penny of compensation, it has emerged.
The US sportswear giant confirmed earlier this week that Greenwood ‘is no longer a Nike athlete’ after initially suspending their relationship with the Manchester United star following his arrest on suspicion of raping, sexually assaulting and threatening to kill an 18-year-old student.
Sportsmail understands that a clause in his endorsement deal meant Nike were able to sever all ties without paying the 20-year-old any compensation whatsoever due to reputational damage and loss of commercial value.
Nike and Manchester United contracts
Greenwood was due to sign an improved contract with Nike next year, and the decision to drop him will potentially cost the player millions. It’s believed that the only money owing to Greenwood would be any outstanding bonus payments – and he may even have to give back some of this year’s earnings to Nike if they were paid up front.
United, on the other hand, are contractually bound to continue paying Greenwood’s £75,000-a-week salary despite suspending him after he was arrested earlier this month and then released on bail. They have said that he will not play for the club or train at Carrington until further notice.
‘Greenwood’s player contract says he can only be suspended for 14 days on full pay,’ said Joseph Lappin, head of employment at UK law firm Stewarts. ‘On the face of it therefore, Greenwood appears free to return to training after 14 days even if the police investigation is still ongoing.
‘However, I don’t expect that to happen. Letting Greenwood return now would be a PR nightmare for the club. ‘Manchester United may say that for as long as any police investigation and criminal prosecution remains live they have the power under the player contract to continue the suspension or re-suspend.’
What comes next?
United must now wait to see if Greenwood is charged before deciding on their next move. Lappin added: ‘In these early days, whilst the criminal investigation is ongoing, the risk of dismissing Greenwood is too great.
‘Greenwood would stand to be compensated by the club for the sums owing to him under the remaining term of his contract if his dismissal was found to be unlawful. If Manchester United considers that the employment relationship has reached the end of the road, more likely is that club proposes terminating the contract and paying Greenwood a settlement sum. These negotiations could take place “off the record” and confidentially. There is a risk there would be a public backlash if the club was seen to pay Greenwood to bring an end to his contract early but the terms of any agreement should remain private and both sides would agree not to disclose the terms of the agreement to the wider world.
If this happened, Greenwood could look to sign for another club, probably abroad, possibly on a pre-contract basis pending the outcome of the criminal investigation in England.
‘If there is a trial and Greenwood is found not guilty, he and the club may explore early termination of his player contract. If there is a trial and Greenwood is found guilty and sent to prison, Manchester United could rip up the player contract and stop paying him.’