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Daily Echo

Saints to fight Benali court case

Francis Benali

Francis Benali

Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author

Reported by Gordon Simpson

Senior Sports Reporter

Published / Sport
320 comments

Saints have promised to “rigorously defend” themselves against legal action being brought by the club’s former player, Francis Benali.

Benali, who made more than 350 appearances during his Saints career, is suing the club over a “lease dispute and lost ambassadorial fees”.

Saints confirmed the action in a statement relating to the cancellation of a meeting between chairman Nicola Cortese and ex-player Matt Le Tissier.

The club called off the proposed talks, which had been reported yesterday, after Le Tissier spoke publicly about them.

Le Tissier had revealed he planned to speak to Cortese about Benali, who he said is “banned from the football club”.

Saints, in their statement, said: “Mr Le Tissier refers to his friend Francis Benali having the best interests of the club at heart, while neglecting to mention that the same person is currently suing Southampton Football Club in relation to a lease dispute and lost ambassadorial fees.

“It is a legal action the club will be defending rigorously in the best interests of the club and its reputation.”

Benali was unavailable for comment.

Le Tissier, who has been publicly critical of Cortese, had been due to meet the chairman at the end of the month, with Saints telling him the venue would probably be in London.

However, after confirming to the Daily Echo that talks were due to take place and discussing what he hoped to achieve from them, the club announced the meeting was being cancelled.

Saints accused Le Tissier of “a breach of good faith”.

The club’s statement, in full, read: “A meeting was organised between Nicola Cortese, the club’s executive chairman, and Matthew Le Tissier in what the club believed was good faith.

“Both parties had agreed that it would be a private meeting with no publicity surrounding it, yet within 24 hours this matter was put in the public domain and further negative comments attributed to Mr Le Tissier have appeared (yesterday) morning.

“As an ex-player, Mr Le Tissier’s achievements are well known.

“However, his repeated criticisms over a prolonged period of time are not justified and have not merited any response from the club. Nor has the motive for these personal attacks ever been made entirely clear.

“Mr Cortese wishes to reiterate that he will not make comment about somebody he does not know personally – and that includes Mr Le Tissier.

“These criticisms have not affected the club’s success and progress on or off the pitch in recent years and will not divert the club from its course in the future.

“For Mr Le Tissier to agree to meet ‘in good faith’ and then make such comments can only be seen as a breach of good faith and certainly not in the best interests of the club.

“Mr Le Tissier also refers to his friend Francis Benali having the best interests of the club at heart, while neglecting to mention that the same person is currently suing Southampton Football Club in relation to a lease dispute and lost ambassadorial fees.

“It is a legal action the club will be defending rigorously in the best interests of the club and its reputation.

“In all the circumstances and in light of the comments attributed to Mr Le Tissier, the club believes that it is now not possible for the above mentioned meeting to take place in good faith.

“We would nevertheless encourage Mr Le Tissier to join with our fans and continue to enjoy the success the club has achieved over the last three-and-a-half years.

“The club now considers this matter closed and will not be making any further comment about it.”

Le Tissier said on his Twitter page that he was not surprised the meeting had been cancelled.

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