Another round in favour of sports arbitration: Court confirms boxing disciplinary appeal panel is an Arbitration

Hands Wrapped
Published: Monday, 14 September 2015. Written by Nick De Marco QC No Comments

In Bruce Baker v The British Boxing Board of Control,1 the Chancery Division found the Boxing Board’s appeal procedure was an arbitration for the purposes of the Arbitration Act 1996 and thus barred Mr Baker form bringing a claim to have the decision to suspend his license as a professional boxing promoter quashed.

 

FACTS

Mr Baker had been subject to disciplinary proceedings by the Board following his staging various boxing events at York Hall, Bethnal Green. The Board determined that the promotions were not properly organised, lacked qualified officials and some of the boxers were not licensed or fit to box, and it charged Mr Baker with misconduct. Following disciplinary proceedings Mr Baker’s license was suspended. He then brought an appeal before the Appeal Stewards of the Board,2 a panel of independent lawyers of significant expertise.

In that appeal Mr Baker was represented by two counsel and solicitors and was able to cross examine witnesses and make submissions about, amongst other things, the compatibility of the Board’s Rules with European Competition law. However he ultimately lost his appeal and the decision to suspend his license was upheld.

Mr Baker then brought a claim in the Chancery Division, challenging the lawfulness of the Appeal Stewards decision. The Board brought an application to strike out Mr Baker’s claim on grounds, amongst others, that he was debarred from bringing a claim in the High Court because the Appeal was an arbitration for the purposes of the Arbitration Act and there were thus only limited statutory routes for challenging it, none of which had been relied upon, and Mr Baker was now out of time to rely on the statutory routes anyway.

 

DECISION

Master Matthews, hearing the application, had to determine the key question of whether the Board’s Appeal was an arbitration for the purposes of the Act. In doing so he applied the analysis set out by Cooke J. in the England & Wales Cricket Board v Kaneria3 case, which had in turn considered factors set out by Thomas J. in Walkinshaw v Diniz.4 The Master considered the 10 factors set out in those cases, all of which go to whether the procedures are agreed between the parties, provide for the final determination of their dispute and provide for a fair hearing in proceedings of a judicial nature. The Master remarked that whilst there was “an obvious danger of treating the dicta of an eminent judge and the words or eminent text-writers as if they expressed a statutory definition” which they clearly did not, they helped to “focus on the characteristics which go to make up the concept of arbitration” and were a “good place to start” (paragraph 42 of the judgment).

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About the Author

Nick De Marco

Nick De Marco QC

Nick is rated a leading silk in Sports Law and is a member of Blackstone Chambers.

He has advised and acted for a number of sports governing bodies, athletes, most Premier League football clubs and many world-class football players in commercial and regulatory disputes.

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