Glasgow football charity suffers £30k loss after being sued by player for 'unfair dismissal' (2023)

The charitable arm of a Glasgow football club claims it has suffered "immensely" after being sued by an international footballer.

Lauren Rabbitte took Clyde FC and the Clyde FC Community Foundation to an employment tribunal saying they reneged on a promise to pay her for a full-time job.

The 24-year-old who previously played for Scotland, England, the US and coached for Rangers, claimed she had been offered a job overseeing the development of girls' and women's football and securing more sponsorship for the men's side of Clyde FC.

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However, a tribunal judge ruled that she had never been taken on as an employee but as a volunteer for the foundation instead.

Clyde FC Community Foundation has said the charity has lost almost £30,000 in "irrecoverable" legal fees due to the court case. In a statement issued after the decision was published, the charity described the case as causing an "immeasurable distraction" that has set back the women and girls football programme "immensely".

Ms Rabbitte said she had given up a £40,000-a-year role and turned down a full-time job with Edinburgh City after being approached by David Caldwell who introduced himself as "head of sport" for Clyde FC.

The tribunal heard that Mr Caldwell had no role with the club at all and was not in a position to enter into any agreement on its behalf.

Mr Caldwell claimed he made clear at the meeting that any role would be with the charitable arm of the club.

He accepted that his reference to “Clyde FC” could be misleading but said that it was common to use that title as a shorthand for both organisations

Ms Rabbitte was told that the club had "plenty of money" for the new post by Mr Caldwell who admitted he had only recently learned about the existence of Clyde Ladies, but wanted to invest in the area because he knew women's football was on the up.

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Mr Caldwell told the tribunal that Ms Rabbittee was "keen" for an employed position but that he had told her that it would be "difficult" and the role would at least initially require to be a voluntary one.

She believed that her role and salary were agreed upon and that she would be given £32,000 plus 20 per cent of commission on any sponsorship deals generated by her.

No written contract was ever provided but Ms Rabbitte started engaging with the club on October 11.

Reference was made to an application to fund her role from the Robertson's Trust but Mr Caldwell allegedly said that she would be "paid regardless of the application".

She said he told her he was confident the funding would be approved "because it was women's football".

Ms Rabbitte says she had no input in the application but was shown a draft of it and described it as "terrible".

She said: "I wasn't too concerned because I was going to be paid regardless".

She was told by email in January that the application for funding had not been successful. Ms Rabbitte said: "I called David to ask about it. His tone changed, it was very negative.

"He said 'we were never going to get it'.

"Still at this point he said 'yeah yeah we will get it sorted'.

"I was fed up, this was now the end of January."

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She said she asked to be referred to human resources and called the Robertson's Trust and was told the application was "full of spelling mistakes" and limited in detail.

She claimed she was told the funding would have been awarded if it had included her evidence that girls were playing football with boys and the team needed the investment to boost participation.

She told the tribunal the women's side told her they were getting "no support" from Clyde and were changing on the pitch.

Ms Rabbitte's mum claimed that she had reduced her hours with Effective Consumable Solutions in order to take up the role but the tribunal found that there was 'no fixed reduction in hours', that she would work as and when required, and that her salary didn't reduce after she commenced the work with the Foundation.

The tribunal was shown emails where Mr Caldwell told the club he had taken her on in a voluntary capacity.

Ms Rabbitte said that she “constantly” asked Mr Caldwell for a contract and for details of when she would be paid - a claim that was disputed Mr Caldwell.

When asked why she didn't question this in writing, Ms Rabbitte stated that she didn't want to appear aggressive.

Ms Rabbitte announced she was leaving her post on March 3, 2022, the day after the club announced the controversial re-signing of David Goodwillie, who was ruled in a civil court to have raped a woman in 2017.

Ms Rabbitte took Clyde to a tribunal for unfair dismissal with other claims of sex discrimination and harassment.

Judge Mackay ruled that the recollection of the meetings were "different" but that Ms Rabbitte was referred to as a volunteer in both internal communications and in communication with a third party.

It was concluded that Mr Calwell didn't have "any reason to mischaracterise the nature of the relationship or mislead others". It found that Mr Caldwell in an email to Ms Rabbitte, said that she had agreed to continue in a volunteering role and wasn't corrected on it.

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Findings outlined: "There was no obligation on the claimant to perform any work whatsoever. What she did, she did of her own volition. She did not receive and had no entitlement to, any wage or remuneration. There was no obligation on her to perform any tasks requested of her. Nor was there any obligation on the part of the Foundation to provide her with any work.

"In performing the functions she did, there was no control whatsoever. There was no supervision and no monitoring of what the claimant did.

"All of these factors point overwhelmingly to the absence of any employment relationship."

Clyde FC Community Foundation said: "On 15th March 2022 a nightmare began for The Clyde FC Community Foundation. Lauren Rabbitte, a former volunteer for the foundation lodged a claim against this charity and The Clyde Football Club CIC. The case centring on a wholly unsubstantiated claim that she had been offered, and had accepted, a full time post by the football club and that the football club had failed to pay her over the five months prior to resigning from the foundation.

"Following the immeasurable distraction, damage to our community programmes, impact on our staff, and the loss of almost £30,000 in irrecoverable legal fees to defend a wholly unfounded and inexplicable assault on the reputation of our charity and our football club we have the opportunity to set some context.

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Glasgow football charity suffers £30k loss after being sued by player for 'unfair dismissal' (1)

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"The foundation put time, energy, and trust into Ms Rabbitte as we sought to give her the opportunity to build an ambitious programme for the advancement of women and girls football associated with Clyde Football Club. That trust was betrayed on all levels, and far from advancing the game for women and girls, her actions have set us back immensely.

"There are lessons to be learned from this experience for any organisation which depends on volunteers. Sadly few of the lessons are positive or build the trust and goodwill that we so often take for granted when we are all working to a common end.

"We hope to be able restart our women and girls football programme, which amongst other activities, was lost on the back of this inexplicable assault robbing all of our activities of almost £30,000.

"If you can assist us to recover, please click this link to contribute to a ring fenced fund for the development of women and girls football."

Ms Rabbitte told the Daily Record yesterday: “I am disappointed with the outcome and we are currently considering my options in terms of appeal.”


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