Sports Direct v Rangers – how not to enforce a confidentiality order

Posted: April 19, 2016

The High Court has dismissed an application by Sports Direct to find Glasgow Rangers Football Club in contempt of court for breaching a confidentiality order.  The order reproduced Rangers’ previous undertaking to keep its commercial arrangements with Sports Direct confidential.  Sports Direct also failed in its application to commit Rangers chairman Dave King to prison for allegedly breaching the order by giving an interview to Sky Sports.

The court found that Sports Direct had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr King had been acting on behalf of Rangers when giving the interview, or that Mr King had said the words attributed to him in an online report of the interview.  Even if he had said those words, it was no more than a technical breach of the order, and it was “inappropriate to police those breaches with the heavy hand of committal proceedings”.

The court concluded that Sports Direct’s whole application was an abuse of process, and the case usefully illustrates the high hurdles that a successful application for committal will need to surmount.

Comment

Committal applications are very serious because the court is asked to imprison a respondent to enforce an order.  In this case, the disproportionate approach (allegedly motivated by a personal vendetta) proved to be an abuse of process.  In any event, it is essential that all procedural and evidential hurdles are overcome, from effective personal service to proper particularisation of the alleged breaches to effective cross-examination of the respondent.

At any rate, taking the aggressive strategy of going for committal leaves little room for error.

Tom Iverson, Associate, Michael Simkins LLP

To read the full article, click here.  Article written for Entertainment Law Review.