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Duty of Care in Sport: Making the case for a Sports Ombudsman in the UK

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 By Jack Anderson, Neil Partington

The first of the seven priority recommendations to be found in Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s Duty of Care Review of UK Sport (2017) proposed the establishment of a Sports Ombudsman. The suggestion for such an office had been made by the authors at the consultation phase of the Review.

This article sketches out how, in ensuring that national sports governing bodies discharge their duty of care, this Ombudsman might work, the scope of its jurisdiction and the enforcement of its recommendations.

Various models are suggested with the emphasis on an accessible, athlete-centred and fully accountable approach to dispute resolution in UK sport. Of particular interest will be the suggested “maladministration” model, which, if ever acted upon, would give a Sports Ombudsman extensive powers of oversight and redress over UK sport and which might, if successful, provide the model for an independent, athlete-accountable, international sports ombudsman’s office.

Specifically, the piece looks at:

  • The Duty of Care Review and the recommendation for a Sports Ombusdman;

  • The role of Ombudsman elsewhere;

  • How might a UK Sports Ombudsman Work?

    • Advocacy and advice - the United States Olympic Committee’s approach

    • An enhanced Independent (Football) Ombudsman

    • The maladministration model

    • The investigatory model

  • The need for a preventative remit and accessibility

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About the Author

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson is a Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne where he teaches criminal law, the law of torts and sports law.

Jack has published widely in the area of sports law and including monographs such as The Legality of Boxing (Routledge 2007) and Modern Sports Law (Hart 2010) and edited collections such as Landmark Cases in Sports Law (Asser 2013) and EU Sports Law (Edward Elgar 2018). He was Editor-in-Chief of the International Sports Law Journal based at the International Sports Law Centre at the Asser Institute from 2013 to 2016. He is Honorary Member of the Centre for Sports Law, Sports Policy and Sports Diplomacy, University of Riejeka, Croatia and an external examiner at the University of Malaya.

An accredited workplace mediator and a Chartered Arbitrator, (CArb). Jack is an arbitrator on the international panel for Sport Resolutions UK and World Athletics’ Disciplinary Tribunal. Jack is a member of International Hockey Federation’s Integrity Unit and a founding member of the Asia Racing Federation’s Anti-Illegal Betting Taskforce. In Australia, Jack sits on the disciplinary tribunal of the Football Federation of Victoria and for Basketball Australia. In 2019, Jack was appointed by the Victoria government to the Board of Harness Racing Victoria. He is Vice-President of Gaelic Games Victoria.

From 2016-2019, he was a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and appeared on the list of arbitrators of the CAS Ad hoc Division for the UEFA EURO 2016 (European football championships). He was the sole CAS arbitrator at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. In 2019, he was appointed to the International Tennis Federation’s Ethics Commission and was asked by the Australian government to chair the advisory committee to prepare for the establishment of a national sports tribunal. In 2020, he was appointed as a member of the National Sports Tribunal of Australia.

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Neil Partington

Neil Partington

Neil is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex. Prior to this, he gained his PhD and was a Research Fellow in Sports Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Neil has considerable experience in teaching and educational management and also holds an MSc in Sports Coaching.

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