Sacked Sunderland AFC executive launches legal fight for seven-figure payout

Mike Farnan when he was appointed as Sunderland's international marketing director.

Mike Farnan when he was appointed as Sunderland's international marketing director.

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A former Sunderland AFC executive is taking the club to court claiming a seven-figure sum after his dismissal.

Michael Farnan, who was appointed as international & national marketing director in 2011, claims he was sacked by the Black Cats in the summer of 2013 on the grounds of misconduct after a number of allegations, including that he had forwarded confidential club information via email to others, including an email account belonging to his wife Nikki.

At a High Court hearing being held in Liverpool, Mr Farnan – who was paid an initial annual salary of £190,000 – is claiming breach of contract and loss of earnings and damages, amounting to a seven-figure sum for loss of earnings and unpaid commissions on major commercial deals he says he was involved with during his time at the club.

These include claims for six-figure sums for his role in securing major sponsorship deals with Invest In Africa and Bidvest.

His claim also includes unpaid commission for his work on deals with StubHub, Bet Butler, Sportsfive and the Tanzania Tourist Board, as well as a club tour of Korea.

Cross-examined about breach of confidentiality in court by Mr David Reade, QC, representing the club, Mr Farnan said he used his wife’s jewellery business email address for emails, as she had been with him throughout his business career.

Further cross-examined, he said that he had been “pushed out of the club”.

Mr Farnan had previously held key commercial roles at Manchester United and Jordan Formula 1.

He has been managing director of Manchester United International, set up to grow the club’s brand in Asia and the Middle East.

He has also held similar roles with Serie A club Parma and La Liga club Atletico Madrid in the past.

The case, which is expected to last until next week and will be hearing representations from the club, continues.