Leeds have won the first stage of their high court case claiming that Iestyn Harris was in breach of contract when he joined Bradford Bulls last summer.
Mr Justice Gray yesterday rejected claims from Bradford and Harris that a clause in the contract under which he left Leeds for Welsh rugby union four years ago, giving the Rhinos first refusal if he returned to league, was a restraint of trade.
That leaves Harris and the Bulls facing a compensation claim that could exceed �500,000, a devastating figure for player and club alike.
Leeds are unlikely to settle out of court given the bitter ness of this dispute between Super League's fierce Yorkshire rivals, and claimed last week at the high court that it would cost around �500,000 to sign a replacement for Harris,as well as the loss in revenue from ticket sales and merchandising.
Harris and the Bulls are already facing a bill of more than �64,000 for Leeds's costs in last week's preliminary hearing, which have been awarded to the Rhinos. The next stage is a full trial, when Leeds seek to establish that Harris breached his contract with them, and that Bradford induced him to do so, although the legal process could yet have months to run.
"We are naturally pleased that Mr Justice Gray has upheld the validity of the contract between Leeds Rhinos and Iestyn Harris and legal proceedings will continue," said the club's chief executive Gary Hetherington.
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Thanks to The Guardian (UK) for this news.