Fans’ Representatives Meet Lawyers Over Nantes Sala Claim

Note of Online Meeting with Cardiff City Legal Advisors – 14 May 2024

Present – Legal Advisers to Cardiff City FC, Cardiff City Staff, Cardiff City Supporters Trust Board Members and Fans Advisory Board Members


In order to update those present on the current status of the legal case against FC Nantes the presentation was divided in to 3 parts

1.       FIFA proceedings instigated by FC Nantes

2.      CCFC Claim against FC Nantes

3.      Case against Willie McKay

Firstly, the proceedings brought by FC Nantes against the Club for non-payment of the transfer fee are a matter of history now. It was considered by FIFA, the Court of Arbitration in Sport and the Swiss Federal Tribunal. As we know the Club was not successful but a critical part of the Club’s defence against the claim i.e. the fact that the fatal crash was organised by those acting for FC Nantes,was not considered by the Court for Arbitration in Sport as it was not within their jurisdiction. A decision that was upheld by the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

The Club then paid the first instalment of the transfer fee and, as we know, is now paid in full plus interest.

The decision was made to lodge a legal claim against FC Nantes who have waged a significant PR campaign in France emphasising that they have won all previous court cases and had decisions upheld but conveniently ignoring the fact that the key part of the CCFC’s defence i.e. FC Nantes culpability in arranging the fatal flight had yet to be contested in Court. An observation was made that, currently, the more informed sections of the French Press take a balanced view in their attitude towards the pending legal case, nevertheless, the FC Nantes campaign continues.

The decision to bring the claim in Nantes itself was made as being the best place to do so and also show that CCFC was not afraid to pursue the matter on “home territory”

The critical part of the CCFC claim that the flight in question was organised by Willie McKay who was acting for FC Nantes. They strongly deny that he was acting for them. It is a Criminal Offence in France to act as a football agent whilst unlicensed. At the time Willie McKay had lost his FIFA Agent Licence to practise as a Licenced Intermediary due to his status as an undischarged bankrupt. It was pointed out that, in the vast majority of cases, bankruptcy usually lasts for a period of 12 months but in the case of Willie McKay it was 5 years because of how he conducted himself during it..

His son, Mark McKay was the FC Nantes recognised agent as part of a Company called Mercato Sports UK Ltd which also involved Willie McKay’s wife at Director Level. This Company was eventually struck off the Companies House register in April 2023 for non-filing of Accounts. It is also worth mentioning that Mark McKay was a Director of a Company called Excelfoot which was put into compulsory liquidation by the Scottish Courts for non-payment of tax debts.

The financial claim against FC Nantes has several strands including the transfer fee, financial impact of relegation including loss of profit, valuation of players, valuation of the Club etc. To support this the Club has employed Forensic Accountants and firms employing data analysis of probabilities. For example, as part of their brief, they looked at specific games during the Premier League season where a difference might have been made had the tragedy not occurred and Emiliano Sala played. The analytical outcome of these exercises was that there was a 62% probability that we would have secured the additional points to stay up. This, apparently, is as high as it gets in these exercises.

Also prominent amongst the experts employed by CCFC is the leading and much respected French firm Sorgem Évaluation who specialise in providing financial expertise for cases at all levels of the French Judicial System including the French Supreme Court for Civil and Criminal Cases (Cour de Cassation). The claim in total is €120.2m. The claim will be heard in Nantes in a Commercial Court in front of elected Judges who are businessmen, not lawyers. In this court, the analytical exercise carried out by those acting for CCFC is a standard procedure and the evidence will be given due consideration in determining the outcome.

The Club’s claim is lodged in the French Court and FC Nantes has until September to reply to the Club’s latest brief which it submitted last month. On receipt of their response, the Court will decide if the case is ready to be tried and if so, is likely to be heard in early 2025. Whatever the outcome the likelihood of appeal is high.

In order to provide evidence to support their claim that Willie McKay was acting for Nantes when the tragic flight was organised the Club took Civil Proceedings against McKay to obtain electronic messages and documentation relating to the Sala Transfer from his devices.. Despite being quoted in the Press that he had reached “a settlement” with the Club over this issue, he did not comply and further Court action was required. The Club have already recovered significant information relating to his activity as a representative of FC Nantes which has been included in the evidence submission. On 15 May, following an application from the Club the Court ordered McKay, and his son Mark McKay, to hand over further documentation which, when it is complied with, will be included as an addendum to existing evidence. It was also pointed out that, McKay faces Contempt proceedings for his continued non-compliance in this matter. This hearing is set to take place in Cardiff in July 2024. He is also liable for a significant amount of the Club’s legal costs as the action continues.

The matter of the involvement of Insurers from the perspective of FC Nantes was raised and it was stated that the Club and their Legal Advisors are not aware of their position in respect of insurance. The question of mediation was mentioned and the meeting was told that the attitude to mediation in the French Judicial System is very different to that in the UK. In France, there is no formal mediation process prior to a trial and such an exercise is not common practice.

Reference was made to an investigation in France into FC Nantes President Waldemar Kita and his son Franck into accusations of illegal practice of the activity of a players agent, forgery, misuse of corporate assets, money laundering of aggravated tax evasion and organised money laundering. It was pointed out that this is a French criminal investigation running in parallel to the Civil case brought by the Club but any outcomes may be helpful to the Cardiff City case.

Keith Morgan