A family’s dream of sending their son to the United States for a football scholarship ended in a bitter legal battle.
Robbie and Hazel Craig paid Airth-based company Sporting Futures USA (SF USA) £2000 in 2014 to start the process of finding son Grant –an under-17 player at the time – a college in the States where he could study for a degree and play soccer.
The move turned sour when the family wanted to pull out of the deal and get a refund after raising concerns over information they felt was misleading about Grant.
The family believed the company had breached the contract by not accurately marketing their son to prospective colleges.
Information sent by SF USA director David Binnie, who also works in a different role as a goalkeeping coach at Stenhousemuir FC, to a coach in America claimed that Grant was 5ft 11in when he was 5ft 9in, his weight was 195lbs when he was 162lbs, his SAT education exam results were 980/1600 when in fact they were 910, and that he played for Stenhousemuir FC under-20s when he played for Stenhousemuir CFC under-19s.
Mr Craig, from Stirling, said: “Our main concern was that, if Grant had accepted a place, any information that wasn’t correct could end up in him being thrown out of the college with no comeback.”
The couple claim they had to continually prompt SF USA for meetings throughout the process with no meaningful detail being provided. Another issue was when Mr Binnie told Grant, who he had signed for Stirling Albion’s under-19 team where he was then a coach, that he wouldn’t be re-signed just days after a 21-day cooling off period on the scholarship deal.
A spokesperson for Stirling Albion who employed Mr Binnie at the time, said: “David Binnie’s SF USA business was absolutely nothing to do with Stirling Albion and he is no longer with the club.”
By Christmas 2014, Grant had also completed three SAT exam tests, which he passed – costing the family £65 a time. In February 2015 an offer at Emmanuel College in Georgia was forthcoming which would have cost a further £5500 for Grant’s lodgings for an academic year, but he decided against taking the place due to the misgivings he had.
When Mr Binnie refused a refund, the couple took their case to Stirling Trading Standards which, after an investigation, found in favour of the family due to Mr Binnie not providing them with the proper cancellation information.
A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “The cancellation information did not comply with The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. These regulations stipulate prescribed information that must be given to a consumer when entering into an off premise contract. Trading Standards raised Mr Craig’s concerns about the services received to the business owner and guidance on the legislation was provided at this point.”
Mr Binnie offered to pay in instalments but the family’s lawyer advised against it and the matter ended in court, which awarded the Craigs the £2000, and £1197 in solicitor’s fees and court expenses, on January 24 this year.
It then took weeks and two bank arrestments on one of Mr Binnie’s accounts for the family to receive their money.
Mr Craig added: “If he had given us a refund it would even have saved him money and a lot of hassle in the end. One of our other concerns has been how many other families were given the wrong information on their contracts.”
Mr Binnie strongly denies knowingly giving false information to any US soccer coach and says any detail is supplied on approval by clients.
He said: “The information is self-reported at the regular meetings that are offered and arranged between both parties given that teenagers’ weights and measurements and educational statistics can change over the period I would work with them.
“I had met with Mr Craig, his son failed to attend, on December 30, 2014, to go through Grant’s footage portfolio that I had been producing. It was explained then and on numerous occasions thereafter that sporting footage is the key evidence of a potential recruit’s ability for a US coach. I think it would be plainly obvious if a recruit, shown in the footage portfolio, was not shown to be what he was suggested as being in terms of height, weight.
“I also discussed Grant’s details including what I understood to be his SAT test score. At this stage, and again in a further email sent to Mr Craig in January prior to this email being sent to US coaches with a PDF of the resume I would be using, both he and Grant had full knowledge of the details I would be using to promote him. No corrections were advised or offered either on the day or thereafter by Grant himself.”
Mr Binnie does accept he made an error in saying Grant played for Stenhousemuir FC under-20s, which he put down to a typing error. He said he was also reluctant to give a refund as he felt he had not breached the contract and had worked hard on securing a placement for Grant.
When quizzed, Mr Binnie revealed that 32 players had been given incorrect cancellation details from 2010 until SF USA revised its Representation Agreement in October 2015 to include the proper cancellation rights in contracts.
Mr Binnie added: “We did not provide the correct information relating to a cancellation period and, as a result, this was the technicality which resulted in Mr Craig being successful in gaining a full refund. We now fully comply with this requirement.
“It is my personal opinion that myself, acting on behalf of Sporting Futures USA provided Grant Craig with a level of service, over a considerable period of time, with a very high level of diligence, effort, clarity and financial re-investment of our program resources.
“Ultimately, I/SF USA were successful in achieving my/our agreed remit of preparing Grant Craig for the career pathway towards becoming a student athlete at an American college/university and I/we were successful in achieving this outcome through the scholarship award offered to Mr Craig.
“This is why I contested the re-imbursement of a full refund. I have spent many years providing a successful service to prospective students wishing to pursue this career path and have achieved considerable success in securing and placing Scottish students in the USA and Canada.”