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Report reveals details of Sunderland’s legal case against club doctor re: Ricky Alvarez transfer

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Sunderland are suing their former club doctor for his part in the fiasco surrounding the transfer of Ricky Alvarez five years ago - and a report published today has offered a detailed insight into how the case is being received by the medical profession within professional football.

The S*n

A report by reputable football writer David Ornstein has offered detailed insight into the current goings on regarding a litigation case being carried out by Sunderland against their former club doctor, Ish Rehman, regarding the fiasco surrounding the club’s purchase of Ricardo Alvarez in 2014.

The news was first reported back in September by The Sun, but nothing much else has been reported on the matter until today.

The piece, published today in ‘The Athletic’, has added further details on what is going on regarding the case and what could potentially happen if Sunderland are successful in suing their former club doctor.

The recent international break gave Premier League club doctors a chance to hold an emergency meeting and top of the agenda was the case of the former Sunderland medic Ishtiaq Rehman.

Run an internet search on Dr Rehman and you will find the full, extraordinary details of a situation that could have enormous ramifications, not only for football but sport as a whole.

Sunderland are suing their ex-employee for more than £13 million in relation to his role in the signing of Argentinian midfielder Ricky Alvarez from Inter Milan on 31 August 2014.

Alvarez’s time on Wearside was plagued by injury and Sunderland allege that Dr Rehman “did not oversee the medical appropriately, or act with best practice”. Barring of a private settlement, this is going to the High Court as Sunderland seek damages for breach of contract and negligence.

Their claim centres on the accusation that Dr Rehman was not present at Alvarez’s medical — he was with the first-team squad as they prepared for an away game at Queen’s Park Rangers on 30 August — and instead used four other medical experts to conduct the tests.

In relation to queries about the state of the player’s knees, Dr Rehman, who has yet to file a defence at the High Court, reportedly told his superiors this was “not of any concern” and the fateful deal proceeded.

Ornstein added:

If Sunderland are successful with their challenge, one Premier League doctor tells me it could both “open the floodgates” for clubs to take retrospective action against their own medics over failed signings and wreak havoc with the recruitment process.

These meetings tend to take place two or three times a year and are usually attended by about half of the top division’s doctors. This one, in London on October 8, drew a full house and there were also lawyers and indemnity specialists on hand to offer information and advice.

“It was emotional and actually quite frightening,” says a source who was in the room. “We’re all pretty nervous — if Dr Rehman is found guilty, the implications are going to be enormous.

“You can’t get into this business at our level without a taking a degree of risk. You can’t sit there and say a player is 100% going to be fine and if your own club is going to do what Sunderland are doing to Dr Rehman, you’re just not going to put yourself in that position any more.

“This concept of players ‘passing’ or ‘failing’ a medical is plain wrong. I’d never go to a manager and say, ‘Yes, he’s passed’ or, ‘No, he’s failed’. I give a degree of risk and say, ‘I can’t guarantee he’s going to play 100 games but I can tell you we’ll get him fit and keep him at this level’.

“What’s the other option — do medicals independently? Nobody is going to independently indemnify doctors who don’t work for the club. And clubs won’t want it done independently. How on earth are you going to make a £70m decision on the advice of someone you’re never met and who has never worked for the club and doesn’t know the demands or the training?

“We know how our players work, we know what they’re expected to do. But we’re sitting here and thinking, ‘If we’re going to be sued for £13m, we can’t do it’.”

And Ornstein further explained the concerns coming from football’s community of club doctors, adding that Sunderland’s case against Rehman could change the landscape when it comes to the profession and their relationship with football clubs:

Complicating matters is the lack of precedent, making the Dr Rehman case potentially pivotal.

“There’s nothing to compare this to in the UK — nobody deals with anywhere near the value of sportspeople that we do,” adds the source. “The lawyers told us that in the USA a piece of legislation was passed many years ago that prevents club employees for being sued like this.

“This would be the ideal scenario for us, but the lawyers said the chances of that happening are virtually nil, unless the Premier League agree it. We want the clubs to write something into our contracts that basically says, ‘Barring negligence, we will not screw you’.”

The lawyers present suggested Dr Rehman’s High Court case would last two or three weeks and produce an outcome in the early part of next year.