“EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Wanted – body to settle disputes”


Every so often there is a dispute in local sports, some controversy involving a club and its governing body.

Then there is always the threat of resorting to the law courts for a resolution. In some instances, the matter has actually gone the distance.

It is so in cricket, bodybuilding, basketball, draughts, dominoes, motor sport and so many other areas.

What we need is an arbitration system covering all sporting disciplines, whereby disputes in sporting matters should not require litigation. This is an area which ought to occupy the attention of Minister of Sports John King. If properly established, it could be his lasting legacy.

Internationally, there is the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which does not serve our interests. We cannot have a system by and for the Barbados Olympic Association, the Barbados Football Association and the Barbados Cricket Association, but one which will cover from horse racing to motorsport to road tennis.

The reality is that many of our sportsmen and women, and the clubs which feel aggrieved by certain decisions, often do not have the wherewithal to go to the law courts to seek redress. The other major issue is that given the demands on our High Courts, cases are unlikely to be dealt with expeditiously.

What we must recognise is that more, not fewer, clubs and individuals will in time challenge sports governing bodies, so we need to be prepared as a society to properly respond to such charges, reasonable or otherwise. The possible issues may be about rights and entitlements to govern sport and competitions, disputes about out-of-season competitions, matters related to commercial contracts and agreements; or even the termination of coaching contracts.

This is why Mr King should see merit in the idea of setting up a Sport Disputes Resolution Tribunal or some agency of similar name but with the same guiding principle. Of course, any such committee would need people who understand sports and its practices and are sensitive and confidential. There would obviously have to be no bias, whether in favour of the athlete or the governing bodies. The tribunal would therefore have to be impartial, independent and follow proper procedures at all times. This is not about political buddies.

But even before such a suggestion can be instituted, it would be important for Minister King to meet with all the sporting associations to outline a vision on where he plans to lead this sector; as a job creator, economic contributor and tool to build the Barbados brand.

He would also need to get the commitment of these sporting governing bodies to agree to accept alternative dispute resolution as their sole means of resolving conflict. Arbitration cannot continue to be an underused tool when the primary objective is to have a win-win outcome. (ES)