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Laws Governing Sporting Associations Coursework

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Updated: Jun 9th, 2022


The purpose of this letter is to set out for you the main legal principles that underpin your legal action against erring sports associations in the country.

There are several aspects that point out the need for maintaining natural justice, procedural fairness, administrative rigor and strict adherence to established norms, regulations, procedures and practices in the arena of professional sports and the conduct of administrators, governing bodies and above all the athletics, especially in their relationships with sports organizations and their working bodies and committees.

Process of Natural justice

The case of Lakeside Hutterite Colony, v. Hofer, does not fall within the ambit of legal aspects of sports but has to do with the protection of human rights in the context of community living in Manitoba, a small settlement consisting of colonies of human inhabitants. What actually transpired, in this case, was that the majority of inhabitants wanted to excommunicate the minorities and force them to vacant their settled land in favor of the majority. The latter went to court to seek official assistance in carrying out their plans of evacuating the poor minority and ceasing their properties claiming it to be theirs. The Courts decided that natural justice needs to be applied and therefore the question of ex-communication could only be done after the minorities were provided their share of common property. The case ultimately came up for hearing in the Supreme Court of the land which ruled that the dissenters were still members of the Colony and could not be excommunicated. So despite all their physical efforts, the majority could not enforce their legal powers upon the minority. (McLaren & Coward, 1999). This case is important since it dwells on a significant aspect of the human psyche and that is in terms of desire to control fellow men and situations to their advantage, which often lead to litigation disputes seeking court interventions. In the case studies that follow, the aspect of the impact of law on various sports-based scenarios is discussed and reviewed.

Impact of private tribunals

At the outset, it needs to be mentioned that sports organizations are different from other organizations in terms of their functional jurisdiction and public accountability. They do not have a direct duty towards the public. They are governed by their own internal laws and bye-laws which determine the scope of jurisdictional control. The members of sports organizational are bound by such laws and bye-laws, written or oral, explicit or implicit in their interaction with such bodies, and any dispute with such sports organizations are mostly resolved through internal resolution, Thus, they function in a different method and Sports organizations are a cut above the rest. For one thing, they are Private Tribunals, and could therefore not deem to have the public accountability that is necessary to provide honesty and transparency in their dealings with athletics and officials. The fact that they are private tribunals often gives them the temerity that they could resort to unfair practices in dealing with athletics, especially amateur ones, and hope that they can get away with it. This feeling is reinforced due to the fact that private tribunals have aspects like confidentiality in dealings, no need for giving persons notice or show cause and could take extreme steps like revocation of membership at the drop of a feather. It could also be seen in terms of the fact that the need for providing appeals, a notice of actions being administered on alleged offenders, the necessity to provide hearing and appeals, and most significantly the need to provide evidence-based statements are conspicuous by their absence, in the care of sports organizations. It is also be seen that there are no legal compulsions for sports organizations to act upon, or refrain from acting upon, making them virtual decision-makers that could make or mar an athlete’s career and livelihood, since most professional athletes have to depend upon doles provided by sports organizations, sponsorships and match fees provided for participating in sporting events.

Aspects impinging upon sports associations

The fact that there are no concrete laws that govern the conduct of sports organizations has constrained Courts to take cognizance of these facts and in certain cases to admonish the authorities handling sports org. It is needed that such organizations need act with virtual fairness, following administrative norms and also consider the greater interests of the future of not only the sports organizations but also that of the athletes who are at the receiving ends of strict laws that are more favoring the sports organizations, rather than the athletes who happen to be under their administrative control and tutelage.

The main aspects that impinge upon sports organizations are

Differences of opinion may crop up from time to time between sports organizations and their members. In most cases, the rules and regulations binding sports organizations are obscure and even not known to their office-bearers. These provisions are referred to in the event of disputes or litigation, which, obviously are undertaken by legal experts who may be able to provide surrogate justice to benefit the sports organization to the detriment of the athletes.

The need for procedural fairness is required in that the other party should also be aware not only of the issue concerning them but should be provided with details of the alleged charges. It is also necessary that they be provided a right to a hearing of the charges leveled against them and also to defend themselves. It is also necessary, in all fairness, to offer the defendant the right to challenge the charges brought against them, and also the chance to defend themselves against the allegations, whether oral or written. However, it has been found in certain cases that the governing body of sports institutions, sometimes summarily and without offering any justifications, suspend or terminate memberships of members without assigning any reasons or providing any causes, whatsoever. This misconduct was evident in the case of Paterson v.Skate Canada when Paterson was accused of serious misconduct by the governing body of Skate Canada. When the matter was referred for Court review, the Court took the unexpected action of auditing the disciplinary procedures taken by Skate Canada against the defendant and found it to be below par. (Robertson, 2007). The aspect of the residency was seen in the case of Fernandes v. Sports North Federation in which the question of the qualification of figure skaters for the territorial teams in the 1996 Arctic Games was disputed over residency issues of contestants. Although there were no rules to substantiate it, the Sports North disputed the residency of sportsmen, but since it was originally held by the Technical Committee that their residency was in order, it ruled in favor of the defendants. This case decided that procedures for dealing with an appeal do not exist, requiring an ad-hoc procedure to be improvised that is ultimately challenged. (Findlay & Corbett, 2002).

Case of Depierro v. Cada

In the case of Depiero v Cada, it was seen that the action of the coach affected the career and professional standing of the athletes, due to the occurrence of bias in favor of one athlete over another. In this case, the coach instructed an athlete to pass on her eligibility for selection in the qualifying round for the 1985 Canada Games in favor of her sister who was in the 1st position. CADA did not share the coach’s anxiety for the athlete to secure a berth, nullified the rigged event, initiated disciplinary action against the coach and disqualified Depiero from participation.

She proceeded to challenge this action with the Event Jury of Appeals who sided with her. However, the board of directors of CADA did not heed the verdict of the Event Jury and refused to take back the disqualification order issued to Depiero. She went to Court who ordered that CADA’s bye-laws did not provide disregard for judgment of the Event Jury of Appeals and declared that the decision of the Board was unfair since the person to blame was not the athlete, Depiero, but her coach who was biased and coaxed her into unethical methods. (Ethics, 2008). This case speaks volumes of the detrimental effects of bias on the performance and future of professional athletes who are put into embarrassing positions because of the favors meted out by officials and people in power.

Case of Kane v. Canadian Ladies Golf Association

The insensitive and negligent treatment meted out to athletics is also seen in the case of Kane v. Canadian Ladies Golf Association in which the sportswoman was ranked among the 4 top golfers in Canada; she also occupied the 2nd seeded position during 1991-92. However, during the latter year, there were policy changes suggesting an emphasis on performance in domestic circuits, international experience, etc, as a result of which her position was reduced to a non-playing player. She filed a suit against CLGA stating that this association had failed to follow its own procedures and rules. The Court agreed to opine that neither the Executive Committee nor the board of directors had sanctioned the new rules. (The coach and the selection process, 1996).

Judicial review

Besides the need for fairness, it is also to be seen that the Courts as a normal rule would not interfere in the internal workings of the sports organizations, primarily because there are competent experts to deliver justice and judgment as and when issues arise, and also the aspect of private tribunals which is attributed to sports organizations by which Courts may not readily supersede their judgments over those declared by the learned jury manning sports organizations. However, in cases where there is a fear of errors in judgment, the Courts would need to issue necessary guidelines for corrections and also where it is felt that the alternative court legal standards are not being maintained, it would be necessary for Courts to intervene. However, it is seen that Courts would not offer judgments but would only provide legal guidance from outside. In many cases, the courts have opined that the applicant would first need to try out the available internal options available before seeking court intervention.

Trumbley v. Saskatchewan Amateur Hockey Association (SAHA)

In the case of Trumbley v. Saskatchewan Amateur Hockey Association (SAHA), it is seen that Trumbley was indicted for having provided coaching to a small team, against the rules of the association where he was holding membership. As a result, he was suspended from its membership. He filed a suit against SAHA. The association, however, allowed him the option of a fair appeal to be heard by an impartial jury. The Courts, however, declined to offer their services citing that the applicant first needs to exhaust all internal options, including appeal before approaching the Court for a verdict. (Findlay, 2000). However, it is seen that Courts took a different view in the case of McGarrigle v. Canadian InterUniversity Sport (CIS). The facts of this case were that the defendant is professed as knowingly rendered coaching facilities to an ineligible athlete, which was against the laws of CIS. Upon suspension, he appealed against the decision. Further investigations into these cases unearthed startling facts, including that the Athletic Director (AD) had not apprised him of necessary information of necessary documents and reports, including the fact that necessary notice was also not served for this suspension order. The defendant then approached the Ontario Supreme Court for a Judicial Review of his case. It is found during the investigation that there a plethora of judicial mistakes were present, and that, instead of the objective complaints against the defendant, there were subsequently several other complaints against the defendant which does not happen in the normal case of this nature. Besides this, it was also found that the defendant was kept in the dark regarding critical information about the findings and major issues concerning his suspension and the actions that were being proceeded against him. Finally, to cap it all, it was found out that the actual responsibility for coaching was the responsibility of the Athletic Director and not the defendant, McGarrigle who seemed to have been a victim of adverse situation and maltreatment at the hands of vested interests, including the AD. (A reason for coaches to know the rules and stay engaged 2004).

Impact of non-sporting Lee v. Showmen Guild of Great Britain case

Thus it could be said that the Court intervention in matters and issues arising out of sports associations is minimal and they are circumspect about setting any judicial precedents, regarding matters of sports associations, especially in Canada. This may be due to a variety of reasons, the principal among which could be in terms of competent and unbiased officials available with sports associations to sort out disputes with members, etc. Another weighing factor would be in terms of the fact that all Sports associations are, by and large, governed by their byelaws and it would be difficult to digress from it or offer alternative solutions, which may become legal precedents and be referred to, just as the landmark case of Lee v. Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, which set new precedents in terms so far as reiterating the fact that the committee of associations only has those powers as contracted upon with its members, and its interpretation should be seen in the context of what it actually confers, and not what it is assumed or purported to confer. Although the Lee case was not only dealing with sports associations it has been widely accepted as a watershed case dealing with issues connected with clubs and social associations. In this case ruling, the learned lord Denning observed “The jurisdiction of a domestic tribunal, such as the committee of the Showmen’s Guild must be founded on contract, expressed or implied. The jurisdiction of the committee of the Showmen’s Guild is contained in a written set of rules to which all the members subscribe. This set of Rules contains the contract between the members and is just as much subject to the jurisdiction of these courts as any other contract.” (Robertson, 2007).

Although not directly concerned with sports, the bold and groundbreaking decision in Lee by Lord Denning had lifted the cloud prevailing on workings of Associations, especially with regard to their dealings with members and associates. In other words, what the learned judge wanted to express in his ruling was that the issues arising in clubs and social rendezvous were more a matter of property rights rather than judicial interventions, which would always not be desirable in such a milieu. But the decisions that need to be delivered in such issues need to have the hallmarks of a true judicial pronouncement, as though it was a decision delivered by a competent Court. This decision could also be seen in terms of granting necessary autonomy to associations to pursue their objectives within the framework of the law and abiding by the better Interests of its members.

Stachiw v Saskatoon Umpire Association

However, it is seen in a number of cases that it is often the officials who hold responsible positions who indulge in malpractices. The case of Stachiw v Saskatoon Umpire Association is a case in point. In this case, the defendant, a member of SSUA was indicted of drinking beer while attending to his official duties of umpiring. Since this was a gross contravention of the association rules, he was suspended for one year from service, till the final verdict was obtained. Although he was given the option of hearing he did not attend it, thus reinforcing his guilt although later he filed an appeal in court against his suspension. However, the Court did not rule in his favor, since he did not make use of the hearing and also because the Courts believed that the person who earlier testified against him, later on, retraced their statements, suggesting some kind of duress being imposed. Upon appeal, the Courts held that he was obliged to honor the laws of SSUA, and had been given ample chance to refute the allegations made against him. Barring incidence of fraud, the Courts do not interfere with the workings of elected executives who adjudicate with proper scope of powers. Thus, his appeal was overruled. (Findlay, 2000). However, his appeal was overruled. This may not always be the case and it is seen that in the Nicholson case, the courts took a different view.

Nicholson v. Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Police Commissioners

The next part would be concerned with the imparting of fairness in decisions by

Associations, especially the ones imposed by law enforcement authorities. During the Year 1978, the Supreme Court of Canada took a precedent set by the House of Lords (HOL) when it delivered the judgment in the Nicholson v. Haldimand –Norfolk

Regional Board of Commissioners of Police Case. (Natural justice, 2008). In this case, the police constable was under probation for a period of 18 months and as per his terms of appointment, he could be terminated, anytime without notice, during this time.

Procedural fairness and cause of action

On the strength of this clause, the Police Board dispensed with his services. He went to court challenging that the decision of the Police Board was not in consonance with equity and justice. The Court affirmed his viewpoint and asserted that a decision need not necessarily have to be court-based to give rise to procedural duties and fairness in the treatment of employees. In this case, the Court verdict that it was necessary to serve notice to the constable and allow him an opportunity for being heard and to respond to the queries and allegations made against him. Only after a hearing would a decision need to be taken in this case. Case. (Natural justice, 2008). This case reaffirms the need for procedural fairness and opportunity for the aggrieved party to know the facts relevant to his retrenchment, and be given ample scope to answer to them whether orally or in writing in order to ensure judicious parity.


In summation, it could be reiterated that the idea of this letter is to present the Court with a strong case that could serve the purpose of delivering speedy justice and deserving retribution.


McLaren, John., & Coward, Harold. (1999). . Religious Conscience The State and The Law.

Robertson, Jane Burke. (2007). Natural justice members and the not-for-profit organization. Canadian Bar Association Ontario Bar Association: Natural Symposium on Charity Law. P.5. Web.

Findlay, Hilary A., & Corbett Rachel. (2002). Sports adjudication on a legal basis. Center for Sports and Law Inc. V.1. Web.

Ethics. (2008). Swimming New Brunswick 2009 Canada New Game Selection Criteria. Web.

The coach and the selection process. (1996). Centre for Sports and Law Inc. V.3. Web.

Findlay, Hilary A. (2000). Dispute Management. The Rights of Athletes, Participants, in Sports. P.18. Web.

A reason for coaches to know the rules and stay engaged. (2004). Center for Sports and Law Inc. V.10. Web.

Robertson, Jane Burke. (2007). Natural justice rules domestic tribunals and expulsion. . P.6.

Findlay, Hilary A. (2000). Judicial Review. The Rights of Athletes, Participants, in Sports. P.19. Web.

. (2008). Vlex.

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