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Conte vs. Chelsea arbitration hearing to start today

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£9m ‘payoff row’ continues

Chelsea unveil Antonio Conte as new Manager
Happier times.
Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Never a boring day at Chelsea, as we like to say, but this season has arguably been one of the weirdest in recent memory. We’re used to things like palpable discord, player power, or weak mentality, but the season started off bonkers and it’s only gotten sillier from there.

Literally just a couple official days into the new season, a couple days into the start of pre-season training, Chelsea (finally) sacked Antonio Conte. Why the club waited that long to do something they intended to as soon as the final whistle blew at Wembley, no one knows for sure, but the conflict had grown very personal between the coach and the Board over the previous season, and that showed quite clearly when Chelsea sacked Conte without paying him (or his staff, as far as we know) their due compensation as it had been agreed in their contracts (which had a year left to run still).

The club backed up this shocking decision by claiming that Conte, in general, broke various competency and behavioral stipulations in his contract, and, specifically, that he cost the club millions by his handling of the Diego Costa situation (even though Chelsea officially supported Conte before, at the time, and even after all that went down).

If Chelsea were expecting Conte to go away quietly, they had clearly not learned anything about the man who had been in charge for Chelsea for two seasons and won a trophy in each of those two seasons. Conte launched a legal fightback, and that has now reached the arbitration step, which is just about the last private step that can be taken to resolve these differences out of the public eye of a High Court hearing.

As reported by The Times, who have been closely tracking this situation, the three-person arbitration tribunal (one chosen by each party, with the third then chosen by those two) will begin hearing the case today (Thursday) — barring any last-minute settlement — and will then render their verdict at an unspecified future date. Should either party disagree with this verdict, the case would go to High Court — barring any last-last-last-minute settlement.

There’s a very good chance the case won’t ever reach the courts. Chelsea especially would not want our dirty laundry aired in public. So, finally, this unseemly episode is nearing its end. We can only hope the arbitrators decide fairly (and in favor of Conte, obviously, because this was a shameful decision on the club’s part).