Frampton and McGuigan to slog it out in Belfast (…High Court)

17 July 2018


Whilst a bout between a young Barry McGuigan and current local hero Carl Frampton might be the stuff of dreams for sports fans, Mr Justice Horner has recently paved the way for an ongoing legal battle between the two to be determined at the High Court in Belfast.

In what initially appeared to be a dream team, the legendary Barry McGuigan took on the role of manager and promoter of Frampton for a number of years. Unfortunately, the relationship broke down in dramatic style following a somewhat farcical episode which saw Frampton missing target weight for a much anticipated fight and his disappointed opponent promptly ruling himself out in any event following a fall in the shower.

The legal fallout of the breakdown of the relationship has produced three sets of legal proceedings; two claims raised by Frampton in Northern Ireland against McGuigan as a director of Cyclone Promotions (UK) Ltd (an English company) and Cyclone Promotions Ltd (a Northern Ireland company) respectively and a third claim issued by Cyclone Promotions Ltd and Barry McGuigan’s son (and former trainer of Frampton) against Frampton in England. All three sets of proceedings relate to the enforceability or otherwise of an International Promotion Agreement and whether said agreement has been breached.

Mr Justice Horner was tasked with deciding whether the Northern Irish Courts had jurisdiction to hear Frampton’s claims.McGuigan’s lawyers had argued the matters ought properly to be heard in the English Courts.

The case presents a useful opportunity to revisit the basic rules for allocation of jurisdiction between the various parts of the United Kingdom. The relevant rules are contained within the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. The basic rule of thumb is that the starting point is the domicile of the Defendant. One can see the logic in this.If you are an individual or company being sued it would seem just that you should be sued in your local Court rather than face the cost and inconvenience of litigating in the Court local to the Plaintiff. This default position can be departed from in a number of circumstances, most commonly in claims for breach of contract where proceedings can be raised in the place of performance of the obligation in question and in claims involving tort/negligence in the place where the harmful event occurred.

In relation to Frampton’s first claim, reliance was placed on the place of performance of the contract to support the argument that the Northern Ireland Courts had jurisdiction. The relevant contract did not specify a place for payment. The Judge was satisfied however that the majority of the income raised by Frampton’s professional fights was raised in Northern Ireland and thus held that Northern Ireland was the place of performance of the relevant obligation. In relation to the tortious aspects of the claim his Lordship held that the harmful event in question was the siphoning off of profits and that that was likely to have taken place in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Courts therefore had jurisdiction despite the Defendant company being based in England.

In respect of Frampton’s second claim, the Defendant was a Northern Irish company and therefore the normal ‘domicile of the Defendant’ rule applied.

It will be for the English Courts to determine whether the claim issued against Frampton in that jurisdiction should be heard there.

In the meantime, Frampton will be hoping to recoup the losses alleged to have been suffered by him during his much anticipated Windsor Park homecoming fight in August 2018.