FIS/Bar Council Sports Arbitration conference

So what do you do when you’ve got a problem with how a match was run or over not being picked to represent your country or whatever? For a lot of sports – boxing, athletics, etc – in Ireland, the ultimate – and usually reached too soon – answer is the High Court. Which is ridiculous – this year, to pick one unnamed sport as an example, the NGB received €120k of taxpayer’s money in grant aid and almost €90k of it was spent on legal fees. That’s obscene, and it’s not the worst case this year. And court cases that drag on for months if not years? That’s no good for anyone.

The answer, or at least one proposed answer, is arbitration, where an independent third party hears out the dispute and makes a ruling based on the case. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s fair, and therefore it’s ideal for sport. Which is why the Federation for Irish Sport has been working with the Bar Council to put together a national arbitration body called Just Sport Ireland (there’s already an international “supreme court” of arbitration in sport, called the CAS in switzerland; JSI would be the national equivalent, linked to the CAS). JSI went live recently and so the FIS and the Bar Council (who are heavily involved in sports arbitration work right now) had the first in what will be a series of conferences and workshops on arbitration in sport for NGBs.

The idea is a simple one. The FIS will assist the NGB in ensuring the NGB’s internal grievance resolution processes are fit for purpose and, once they are, the NGB will put it in their constitution or articles that if the person with the grievance wants to appeal the NGB’s decision after an internal process, that they will do so to the JSI body rather than take an action in the High Court. Anyone who’s a member of your NGB will have signed up to this, so everyone gets a nice, simple, cheap, fast and fair solution to grievances.

Has the NTSA signed up for this? Well, no, not yet. It’s due to be presented as an option at the next committee meeting, but there’s so much on that agenda that it may not be voted on for a few weeks. But personally I think it’s the best way forward. I don’t believe a sports body has any business going to the High Court with one of it’s own members on the other side of the room, and if JSI means that won’t happen and things will be fair, then I’m all for it.

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