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Smith attack victim wins case

A YOUTH academy director was attacked by former Chester City owner Terry Smith following a row over money, an employment tribunal was told.

A YOUTH academy director was attacked by former Chester City owner Terry Smith following a row over money, an employment tribunal was told.

Graham Vile said he was wrestled to the ground as he tried to leave the club's grounds after he was sacked.

He told the tribunal he had refused to sign a blank form to release funds from Sport England, which funded the club's youth academy.

He claimed Mr Smith then lost control and told him to gather his things and leave the club.

But this week, Mr Vile was awarded a total of £17,155 from Chester City FC after the tribunal decided he had been unfairly dismissed.

After the hearing, he said: 'I'm disappointed at the way the club has treated me. I lived and breathed Chester City. I'm just glad it's over. This has been really hard on my wife and family.'

Mr Vile was appointed director of Chester City's centre of excellence, or youth academy, in 1999.

One of his roles was as trustee of the youth academy account which handled cash from Sport England, the sports arm of the National Lottery.

Invoices and accounts showing where cash had been spent had to be sent off before it would release money.

Mr Vile, 47, told the tribunal how Mr Smith had placed him under pressure to sign a blank spreadsheet so the cash would be released. He called him to a meeting in February, which lasted two and a half hours, before telling him to leave the club.

Mr Vile, from Great Boughton, Chester, said: 'He kept on going on about the form. Mr Smith was annoyed because he wanted the funds. He is very difficult when you're trying to discuss things.

'He asked me to sign a blank form but I refused. I was a trustee answerable to Sport England and the Football League.

'There was a lot of swearing by Smith, he lost control and then said get your things, clear your desk and give me the club keys.

'I assumed I was sacked.'

But as he left, he claimed he was confronted by Mr Smith, who refused to let him pass.

Mr Vile said there was a dispute over the ownership of computer disks he took with him.

Mr Vile told the hearing: 'Mr Smith attacked me and wrestled me to the ground. I got up and tried to phone the police but he stopped me.

'I saw a Professional Footballers' Association representative and only then did he let me out.'

He said he made a statement to police but no action was taken.

Tribunal chairwoman Mary Slater said: 'Chester City has admitted the dismissal but we are far from convinced it was for genuine reasons.

'He was sacked because he refused to sign the form for Sport England. The dismissal's unfair.'

Smith sold Chester City to Liverpool boxing promoter Stephen Vaughan in September.

The club failed to turn up to the hearing. Mr Smith was also not present.

Mr Vaughan, the club's new owner, said: 'The reason the club was not represented at the hearing was because we cannot defend ourselves as we don't know what it is we are defending.

'This dispute occurred under the ownership of Terry Smith. We will be taking up the matter with Mr Smith.

'As far as we are concerned, any money awarded in court is his responsibility.'

Mr Smith has been unavailable for comment.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
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