Colchester United: Ex-player and chief scout starts legal battle against club

A FORMER Colchester United player who went on to become their chief scout has started legal action against the club at an employment tribunal alleging wrongful dismissal.

Paul Dyer, 57, who was with the club for a total of 23 years, was made redundant from his post in January 2009.

A tribunal into his dismissal from the club, which was purchased by Aspire Media boss Robbie Cowling in 2006, was opened in Bury St Edmunds yesterday.

Mr Dyer’s solicitor, Peter Norbury, said that the claimant had been dismissed without notice at a meeting with Mr Cowling and the head of human resources, Dina Wildman, on January 14.

Mr Dyer, of Colchester, told the tribunal: “I was phoned at 9am by the secretary and told to get to the chairman’s office by 9.30am – there was no other explanation what it was for.

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“I had no idea what the meeting was about and I was hit with this bombshell that I was being made redundant. It can be flowered up as much as you like, but that’s what it was.”

Mr Dyer, who spent five years at the club as a player and 18 years in various other roles including chief scout, was offered a compromise package of �5,833 which the club argued was a better deal than if he went through the redundancy process.

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The claimant did not accept and instead decided to appeal the decision, but told the tribunal: “The appeal was a sham, I had already been sacked. They had done what they needed to do and I was not part of the system.”

The claimant said that the manager at the time, Paul Lambert, did not want him around. He added: “There was this goalkeeper we had on loan from West Ham and he was being paid �6,000 a week. Mr Lambert wanted to raise that money somewhere else so we could keep him on loan.”

The club’s solicitor Bruce Gardiner argued that at the meeting of January 14 it was not set in stone that the claimant would be made redundant and the club would explore other opportunities for him.

Giving evidence Mr Cowling, said: “In a football club scouting has many layers to it. The first scouts would go to the game and identify the talent and this would go up the line to someone like Paul Dyer. If he liked someone it goes up the line to the manager.

“What was being recommended to me by the manager was that we could remove those early tiers and still cater for the scouting with fewer staff. It was a commercial decision and economically sound.

“It’s never nice when you know some people are being made redundant. We wanted to offer these people something better than they were likely to get. I always tried to be more generous than required by law.

“We offered him a compromise agreement. In Paul’s case it was about five times more than he was likely to get if he went through the redundancy procedure.

“All the meetings we had with Paul were extremely difficult and tense and we didn’t get much back from him.”

The tribunal is expected to conclude today.

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