Unlike formal court proceedings, the establishment and conduct of a sporting tribunal is usually not regulated by legal formalities or processes, but outlined in the particular sporting organisation’s constitution and/or by-laws.
The conduct of a tribunal hearing requires the application of the basic principles of natural justice. Important considerations for sporting tribunals are:
- Notification: athletes in question should receive in writing notification of the charges against them so as to ensure they have the opportunity to be on notice of the case and respond either by written response or at the hearing.
- Representation: since hearings are intended to be less formal than court hearings there is often no absolute right to legal representation. There is usually however provision in the constitution to allow for some form of third party representation.
- The hearing: the panel of tribunal members is usually made up of independent members chosen by the relevant sporting organisation and who have expertise in the particular sport. Usually at least one tribunal member has legal qualifications. Tribunal decisions are made on the legal threshold of ‘the balance of probabilities’. The admissibility of evidence and the examination procedures can be flexible and quite discretionary. There are no legal obligations imposed upon witnesses as to what information must be disclosed.
- Penalties: any penalty imposed must be one that is provided for in the organisation’s constitution or by-laws. An athlete should also be afforded the opportunity to be heard on the question of the nature and severity of the penalty to be imposed.
If your organisation needs assistance setting up a tribunal to address conflict in your sporting organisation, or you are an athlete who has been charged and requires assistance to meet your case, please contact Symoane Mercurio.