THE SPORTS LAWYER is actually a posse of Britain’s brightest lawyers, from the Sport & Media team at the UK law firm, Thomas Eggar, who will be contributing features, analysis and insight on a regular basis on the key sports law issues of the day. In TSL’s latest column, Andrew Nixon discusses Tottenham’s dispute over the Olympic Stadium, and another example of a decision by a governing body being overturned.
26 August 2011
Tottenham Hotspur have won the right to proceed to a full judicial review hearing in October following Wednesday’s ruling (24 August 2011) by Mr Justice Collins. The paper application was initially refused in June; however, the club succeeded in persuading the Court at the oral hearing that it had an arguable case.
The basis of the application was that there was procedural impropriety in the decision making process, and the club focused its submissions yesterday on the £40m loan from Newham Council and argued that the loan was a critical component of the bid and gave West Ham an unfair economic advantage.
Whether or not this matter actually proceeds will now be contingent upon the outcome of ongoing discussions with the Mayor of London and the government. Indeed, the announcement yesterday that Spurs will be receiving an £8m cash injection from the Mayor of London may well be sufficient to bring matters to a close, as it would mean Spurs could instead focus on the redevelopment of the site the club identified some time ago in Northumberland Park.
Spurs have pressed hard for a judicial review, but realistically their claim is unlikely to succeed, and, even if was successful, the Court would not overturn the decision, but instead order that it be reviewed, this time with greater transparency. Inevitably, given that the Games’ ‘legacy’ was the major factor behind the decision in the first place, and the major concerns that the joint Spurs/AEG would have damaged that legacy, Spurs’ bid for the stadium would in all probability have failed again.
The real objective of the application was more likely to have been strategic: to force the Mayor of London to sit down with the club and, ultimately, provide backing for the redevelopment of White Hart Lane. On balance, that objective appears now to have been achieved.
The side issue is of course the involvement of Leyton Orient, which on paper has a much stronger claim. Orient’s argument revolves around the application of Rule 1, Section 6.5 of the Premier League rules (‘the Rules’). This article states that a club is entitled to move ground location provided that it “does not adversely affect clubs that have their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location“. Orient will therefore expect any settlement of this dispute to involve funds going its way, potentially to assist with a move away from Brisbane Road.
Irish High Court overturns selection decision
The Irish Boxer, Michael O’Reilly, has succeeded in a claim that he was unlawfully deselected by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) following an alleged breach of discipline. The boxer was dropped from the European Youth Championships for failing to attend a training session. He argued that he had to attend to fixing his van which had been damaged in a minor incident.
The governing body’s decision was challenged because it put his sports grant, and the chance of competing at the 2012 Games under threat. The High Court accepted the boxer’s evidence and ordered the he be considered for selection. The Court determined that the disciplinary action was unlawful and the governing body had acted ultra vires (outside of its authority). The Court also expressed its disappointment that the dispute could not be dealt within internally within the sport.
This is another example of a decision of a governing body being overturned because it has not acted within its authority, or followed its own rules.
Constructing and organising disciplinary proceedings is one of the most important tasks for any governing body. A sensible pre-planned policy, alongside carefully drafted rules that leave little or no room for alternative interpretation should allow governing bodies to immunise against legal challenge. Beyond this, it is case of taking considerable care during each step of the disciplinary process, recording all correspondence, following procedures with precision and taking legal advice where necessary.
Bin Hammam appeals lifetime ban
Mohamed bin Hammam has appealed to the Fifa Appeals Committee against his lifetime ban for having been found guilty of attempted bribery. Bin Hammam has argued that the decision making process of FIFA was flawed and not independent.
If he fails in his appeal, a further appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport could be possibility.
Andrew Nixon is an Associate in the Sport and Media Group at Thomas Eggar.
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