An NGB approached Sport Resolutions for assistance in resolving a dispute arising from the introduction of a new policy which prohibited individuals from participating in a discipline of the sport once they reached their 70th birthday. The NGB argued that the policy was informed by accident data and was justified on health and safety grounds. A group of participants affected by the new policy sought to challenge the policy on the grounds that there was no health and safety justification for the new policy and that the policy offended the age discrimination provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
Twelve individual participants in the sport who were members of the National Governing Body (NGB) and the NGB of sport
Service provided by Sport Resolutions
Sport Resolutions assisted the parties to draw up an arbitration agreement which defined the issues to be resolved and also clearly set out the powers of the arbitrator with regard to the award of costs and interim relief. All parties consented to resolve the matter in accordance with the Arbitration Rules of Sport Resolutions UK as varied by the arbitration agreement. The priorities for the parties were cost and speed. Sport Resolutions appointed an experienced barrister with significant knowledge of a related sport to adjudicate the matter as sole arbitrator. A telephone directions hearing was organised to set down a timetable for the parties to identify scientific experts, to exchange witness statements and skeleton arguments. A second directions hearing was organised to resolve a dispute that arose concerning compliance with the original directions order. Sport Resolutions worked with the parties to manage the costs of the arbitration by organising an extended single day hearing at Sport Resolutions’ arbitration centre. This avoided the need for overnight stays and reduced the costs of the tribunal and of the parties’ own legal costs. Each party called their own scientific expert who gave oral evidence and was cross-examined by the other party. The arbitrator considered two bundles of written submissions and heard over nine hours of oral evidence. At the end of the hearing the arbitrator committed to provide a written award within the next 10 days.
The cost to the parties
A total bill of £3,500 which was divided equally between the two parties.
The Arbitrator ruled that the imposition of a maximum age of 70, for participation in the discipline, was arbitrary in the absence of evidence to demonstrate a reduction in risk or an improvement in safety by the imposition of this maximum age rule. He ordered that the decision of the NGB to introduce the policy be quashed, and the matter remitted back to introduce a proper safety and risk based approach to participant age.
- A potentially damaging dispute was brought to a final and binding conclusion within 16 weeks at a cost of less than £2000 per party.
- The NGB members had the opportunity to present their case to an independent tribunal and regardless of outcome could be satisfied that their NGB had taken their complaints seriously.
- By agreeing to resolve the dispute by way of independent arbitration the NGB showed itself to be acting fairly, openly and transparently.
- The NGB avoided potentially costly and time consuming litigation which may have undermined the integrity of the sport.
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