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Judge brands Centerplate's behaviour ‘disgraceful' and ‘bullying' as it is forced to pay £1.4m damages

24 November 2017 by
Judge brands Centerplate's behaviour ‘disgraceful' and ‘bullying' as it is forced to pay £1.4m damages

Caterer Centerplate has been forced to pay out £1.4m to former client Gillingham Football Club after it lost a court battle over a contract.

The judge presiding over the case described Centerplate's behaviour towards its client as "disgraceful" and "bullying".

The case was heard in the High Court in London before judge Sir Alistair MacDuff.

The case revolved around Centerplate bailing on a £28,000-per-month "guaranteed payment" contract for providing all food at the club's Priestfield Stadium, from banqueting to burger stands. In March 2015 Centerplate walked away from the deal in the middle of the football season in a manner the judge described as a "moonlight flit".

Centerplate denied liability until July 2016. Following that admission, it then disputed the scale of damages it should pay the club as a consequence of the breach.

In unusually strong language, the judge described the caterer's behaviour as "disgraceful" and "bullying" and said it had engaged in "blackmail", stressing that these were words that he was introducing to the case. He said the company's behaviour was "wholly unprofessional and something of which it should be ashamed".

Tom Lawrence, a London partner at law firm SA Law, who headed the legal team for the club and specialises in big commercial disputes said: "From my many years' experience in the commercial courts, I have never heard such strong words used to describe parties in such black and white terms. There's usually far more 'grey' in cases like this. It proves how right the club's chairman Paul Scally was to stand up to them and fight them all the way."

Scally said: "To say the past two and a half years have been stressful and challenging would be an understatement. Against a background of personal ill health resulting in major open heart surgery last October, I have just about hung onto this case, which has been difficult and draining due to the disgraceful manner in which Centerplate, its UK chief executive, Adrian Dishington, and chief legal and talent officer in the US, Keith King, conducted themselves.

"I was never in doubt as to the merits of the case and I would like to thank our legal team, especially Tom Lawrence of SA Law, for all their help and guidance, without whom we would not have achieved the result.

"I would also like to thank our director of events and facilities, Steve Ware, who has done an excellent job, along with the other catering management and staff, in rebuilding the 'priestfield.com' brand, such that our performance this year is greater than Centerplate (the catering experts) were able to achieve in any year of their operation."

In a statement, Centerplate said: "We value all of our client relationships and are disappointed by the tenor and course that this particular contract has unfortunately taken; but we are relieved to finally have resolution and to focus on our other valued partnerships."

Sodexo acquires Centerplate for £512m >>

Centerplate makes early exit from £21m Gillingham FC deal >>

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