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A cautionary tale for arbitrators in sports law disputes – lessons from Fleetwood Wanderers v AFC Fylde

Arbitration Football
Friday, 08 March 2019 By Celia Rooney

In Fleetwood Town FC v AFC Fylde1, the High Court upheld a challenge to an arbitral award on the grounds of serious irregularity under section 68(2)(a) of the Arbitration Act 1996 (AA 1996). The Arbitrator had failed to inform the parties that, following the hearing, he had been in communication with The Football Association (The FA) as to the scope and content of its rules, and had in turn failed to provide either party with the opportunity to make representations on the issues raised in that correspondence. 

A battle of the Titans it was not. This case is nonetheless a useful reminder as to the circumstances in which the Courts will uphold a challenge to an arbitral award and is a cautionary tale to all those who arbitrate disputes in the tight-knit sports law community. 

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Written by

Celia Rooney

Celia Rooney

Barrister, Blackstone Chambers

Celia practises across all of Chambers’ main areas of work, with particular experience of commercial disputes, sports law, public law and human rights, and employment. She is frequently instructed in cases where there is significant degree of overlap between her specialisms, such as commercial judicial reviews and sports and employment cases involving allegations of fraud. Similarly, from October to December 2016, Celia acted as sole legal counsel for the Payment Systems Regulator, advising on a 'super-complaint' by the consumer group, Which?, concerning authorised push payment fraud.

She has experience before a range of tribunals, including the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court  and has also appeared in cases before a number of regulatory bodies, such as The FA Regulatory Commission and Appeal Board. 

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