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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Tony Pulis facing £5m bill over 'deceitful' Crystal Palace departure

Jason Burt

Published 29/11/2016 | 02:30

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis. Photo: Steve Paston/PA Wire
West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis. Photo: Steve Paston/PA Wire

Tony Pulis' reputation has been shredded in a UK High Court judgment against him in which he stands accused of acting fraudulently in engineering his departure from Crystal Palace immediately after receiving a £2m bonus.

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In a damning decision by judge Michael Burton, Pulis has been ordered to pay Palace a total of £3.8m - £2.3m for the repayment of the bonus plus liquidated damages of £1.5m. It is understood that costs could push that figure to more than £5m.

In a 32-page ruling, the judge concluded there was no evidence to support Pulis (58), who challenged the findings of an independent mediation tribunal, set up under English FA rules, which had declared that "his conduct. . . has been shown to be disgraceful" and he had "deliberately misled" Palace chairman Steve Parish so he could eventually find a better job.

The acrimonious dispute stemmed from August 2014 when Pulis, now the West Brom manager, was due a £2m 'survival bonus' after guiding Palace to safety in the Premier League.

Under his contract, the payment was to be made at the end of August but Pulis asked Parish to pay him early because he needed the money to purchase a plot of land for his daughter.

Goodwill

The tribunal suggested that Pulis "sought to play on Parish's goodwill by referring to the land as being for his family (Parish having recently attended the wedding of one of Pulis' daughters)."

The day after Pulis received the money, he told a stunned Parish that he wanted to leave.

It later transpired there had been a heated meeting with the players over bonus payments for them.

Pulis had said the meeting took place on August 12 - the day before he said he wanted to go and the day he received his bonus - but it was proved to have taken place four days earlier on August 8, after which the manager was said to have told the chairman he remained committed to the club.

Three former Palace players gave evidence that they remembered the meeting as having taken place on August 12.

However the judge found that Parish was not at the training ground that day and that they must have misremembered.

Palace additionally had telecommunications evidence, taxi receipts and rival statements to counter the claim.

Pulis cited the meeting as a reason for him wanting out, believing his relationship with the club had broken down, but the judge backed the findings of the panel - comprising three eminent QCs - that Palace were right about the date of the meeting.

The panel added that Pulis was "not willing to concede that the heated players' meeting did not occur on August 12 because he otherwise had no explanation (for his departure)".

It went on to say that it was "more likely that he intended to seek more lucrative employment with another club" and that there was no evidence of an "imminent property transaction" - the reason why he said he needed the money in advance - and that "he deliberately gave Parish the impression that he had a pressing need for the money".

One of the most damning passages of the tribunal's findings, quoted by the judge in his ruling, said that Pulis' "conduct has been shown to be disgraceful".

It added: "It is simply not credible that he (Pulis) could honestly say that he was happy and committed to the club on August 8 and have changed his mind so completely by August 13, when nothing had happened other than him having received £2m from the club."

Judge Burton dismissed Pulis' application to challenge the tribunal's findings and ordered him to repay the bonuses, damages and legal costs "for deceit".

Pulis did a remarkable job at Palace after taking over from Ian Holloway in November 2013, guiding them away from the threat of relegation - with just four points from 11 games when he took over - to an 11th place finish. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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