Al Ahli announced Saturday night they will fight a Fifa ruling that asked the Pro League side to pay their former coach David O’Leary US$5.2 million (Dh19.1m) in compensation stemming from his break with the team in April of 2011.
O’Leary had taken the claim to Fifa following his departure eight months into a three-season contract with the Dubai club.
The League Managers’ Association (LMA) said despite having dismissed O’Leary, Ahli claimed the former Leeds and Aston Villa coach had abandoned his job.
“Club officials had openly stated to the media at the relevant time that there had been a dismissal,” said an LMA statement. Fifa awarded O’Leary, who was backed by the LMA and represented by Paul Gilroy and the solicitor Michael Kennedy, the full sum due under his contract.
According to the Press Association, O’Leary said: “It has taken a long time to deal with this matter but I am pleased that all issues have now been finalised. I hope my case provides reassurance to all managers and coaches working all over the world that there is a formal system in place that provides employment protection.”
However, in a statement released last night, Ahli said the Fifa ruling is “just the first step of a long dispute”. The club called on Fifa to reveal “the grounds of such decision” and will lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The statement continued: “The club would like to remark that it is and has always been respectful of UAE laws and Fifa regulations. Moreover, it has been acting fairly vis-vis its employees.”
The club said it expects CAS “to overturn a decision which is considered unfair and contrary to the actual events”.
O’Leary was hired by Ahli after the 2009 champions had fallen to eighth in the following season and was part of a makeover that included the Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro.
However, Ahli lost their opener to Al Dhafra and were seventh when O’Leary and the club parted ways.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE