Is there such a thing as a football genius?

Ryan Giggs has played 952 games for Manchester United. He scored 168 goals. His team won 13 Premier League titles and has won the Champions League twice. Suffice to say, he is very good at football.

He and his wife Stacey are now getting divorced – the press have reported she has had enough of him cheating on her.

Giggs has told the High Court he will be arguing that he should not have to pay 50% of the assets in the marriage, £40 million, to Stacey, because of he has made a “special contribution” to generating the wealth of the marriage, but are his goal scoring feet really that genius?

What exactly is a special contribution?

There is no definition of a special contribution in statute, and no clear definition in case law.

The key elements we can distil from the cases in which this issue has been considered, are:

  1. Exceptional wealth – more than £20 Million is what the case law suggests amounts to “truly vast wealth” enabling the special contributions argument to be successfully ran.
  2. Genius – the court has not defined what genius is; the law is still in a state of flux, with an approach of “I know it when I see it”
  3. A special contribution must be unmatched.
  4. special contribution is not to be applied in a way that is discriminatory to the home maker.
  5. Cases are not to be decided by comparing one with another.

The hurdle is very high indeed; there have been only a handful of cases in which a special contribution argument has been successfully run, leading to a departure from equality in the division of assets. Only last week Randy Work lost his appeal against the decision of Mr. Justice Hollman requiring him to hand over £70 million of the £140 million asset pot to his ex-wife Mandy Gray. The judgment, which provides a helpful summary of the previous cases, may be found here.

Will Ryan Giggs succeed? Probably not, but we can’t be sure as we’ve not yet heard the final whistle. Watch this space.