CRAWLEY Town say they do not believe Colchester United or their chairman Robbie Cowling knew that Matty Etherington was in breach of contract upon being appointed U's interim head coach last week.

Etherington was placed in temporary charge at Colchester following Ben Garner's dismissal last weekend but Crawley contacted the U's last Friday stating they believe their former boss is still bound by a contract with them until May, 2024.

Etherington, who joined Colchester as their under-21 boss in the summer, had a three-game spell in charge of Crawley last season before parting company with them in December, 2022.

READ MORE: Ben Garner's dismissal has served as 'reality check' for U's players

As a result, it has emerged that Colchester would need to pay a buy-out fee to Crawley if Etherington took to the dugout for their game at Accrington Stanley.

And the Reds subsequently turned down a request from U's chairman Robbie Cowling for Etherington to be in charge at the Wham Stadium.


Now Crawley have issued a statement apologising to Colchester fans and stating the clause in Etherington's contract preventing him from taking charge at a League Two club before the agreement with them ends.

In a statement, Crawley said: 'We want to apologize to the Colchester United fans who were caught in the middle of an unfortunate situation.

'Matthew Etherington resigned as Crawley Town manager last December and had the following clause in his contract: "The Manager shall not be permitted to bring his Agreement to an end early under this clause to take up employment at or be otherwise engaged by another football club playing in the same or a lower league as the Club is playing in at that time. No buyout will be permitted in such circumstances."


'We were not aware that Matthew had been in breach since June 28, 2023, when he was appointed the U-21 coach of Colchester, until Wednesday of this past week. On Thursday, we clarified his contract with our legal team and alerted Colchester on Friday.

'When we alerted Robbie Cowling Friday, we were told he would provide us zero compensation for Matthew.

'We do not believe Robbie or Colchester had any idea until Friday that Matthew was in breach of the contract he signed with us.

'We have no problem if he is an under-21 coach at Colchester and if Matthew asks us permission to reassume that role, we'd be happy to grant it.

'We're happy Colchester won on Saturday and we wish Robbie and his team the best in their ongoing managerial search.'

Colchester are looking to appoint a permanent replacement for Garner, who was relieved of his duties last weekend after four successive league defeats.