Independence and impartiality of sports disputes resolution in the UK

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Private sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom have the contractual freedom to organise their own sports tribunals and disputes procedures. There is no legislation in the UK that governs the form of a sports governing body’s dispute resolution procedure. The common law and, to a certain extent, other industry measures influence the structure of a disputes procedure within a private sports governing body. When establishing dispute resolution systems in self-regulating industries, there is potential for structural conflicts of interest to arise. Reporting mechanisms and adjudicatory processes may be structurally bias through, for example, the way appointments are made to a dispute resolution panel. There may be the suggestion of implicit bias of panel members because of the interests that control the appointment process. Even if no actual bias arises, the perception of bias can damage the engagement of stakeholders in a dispute process and damage the reputation of the sport with sponsors or the general public. The key is to minimise structural conflicts of interest and ensure that the process is independent and impartial. This article examines the challenges faced with organising sports dispute resolution procedures, the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and highlights the important factors that a sports governing body should consider when designing an independent and impartial dispute resolution system. It concludes with a discussion of whether the legal basis for sports dispute resolution in the UK requires reconsideration to provide certainty, independence, impartiality and, above all, to guarantee a fair hearing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Sports Law Journal
Early online date11 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2021


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