Chelsea could end up in the High Court amid their ongoing dispute with their former head coach Antonio Conte over his severance package.
A Premier League managers’ arbitration tribunal has now been appointed to rule on the matter, according to The Times.
Despite months of wrangling between their legal teams, both parties have yet to agree the terms of the Italian’s pay off.
Conte, who won the Premier League and FA Cup during his two-year tenure at Stamford Bridge, was dismissed by Chelsea in July with 12 months still remaining on his contract.
But an acrimonious fall out from his departure means the case will now considered by a three-person tribunal, which is the first legal port of call for any ongoing issue around an employment contract.
Conte’s lawyers have argued that the former Juventus boss should be paid for the final year of his deal or until he takes another job – which equates to around £9million.
Chelsea have countered that argument by claiming the 49-year-old’s conduct put him in breach of that contract.
During his final season in charge at Stamford Bridge his relationship with key figures at the club broke down. This began when Conte sent a text message to Diego Costa, the club’s former striker, notifying him he was surplus to requirements.
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The club are likely to use this as evidence in their case against him.
Conte’s legal team are also considering the possibility of claiming for aggravated damages on the grounds that, by leaving it so late to sack him last summer, Chelsea prevented their client from finding another job at a top club.
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Conte returned to Chelsea for pre-season before his widely anticipated sacking was actually confirmed in a 61-word statement; the short paragraph mentioned the trophies Conte won during his spell in west London, but neglected so much as to thank him – giving a strong indicator as to just how tense relations were at the end of his tenure.
For the tribunal, each party will be asked to nominate an arbitrator, with those two arbitrators then appointing a third who must be legally qualified to serve as chairman.
Conte became the ninth Chelsea manager to be sacked since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. The club have been forced to pay out a whopping £70million in compensation to the previous eight (including twice to Jose Mourinho) without a legal fight.