Members of the Victorian Bar have a long history of supporting organised sport at local, state, national and international levels. A number of our members act as office bearers for sporting organisations, or donate other forms of support to 'grass roots' organised sport.
Our sports law barristers also provide formal legal support to sport through a number of initiatives. These include:
Membership of Tribunals & Appeals Boards
Bar members act as volunteer Tribunal or Appeals Board members, on a pro bono basis, for many sporting associations and federations.
These links began in 2007, when the Bar was asked by Victoria's peak soccer body, the Football Federation of Victoria (FFV), to provide Tribunal and Appeals Board members for the Federation. The Bar then identified that there was a similar need across a diverse range of sporting associations, and circulated a request to Victorian barristers for members to assist the FFV and groups.
Almost 100 barristers subsequently volunteered to assist, and appointments have been made to Tribunals and Appeals Boards for sports such as netball, hockey, cricket, women's cricket, basketball, rugby league, soccer, basketball and Australian Rules football.
Most of these bodies are very active and sit weekly or fortnightly. There are around 50 such barrister appointments at this time, with several appointees also assisting with other issues such as reviewing and amending constitutions and providing other legal support.
Free mediation service
Sports law barristers, in association with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, offers a free mediation service for disputes between athletes and their sporting organisation. This scheme includes assistance to athletes caught up in nomination or selection disputes. In most cases, these mediations are convened at short notice and held with the assistance of the Victorian Olympic Committee.
Although many elite athletes have the assistance of valuable scholarships, the amount involved is generally not enough to meet legal fees and without the type of pro bono assistance offered by the Bar, most athletes could not afford representation.
Assistance with major events
Our sports law barristers provided volunteers to assist athletes and officials at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the 2007 World Swimming Championships, also held in Melbourne. During both events, members of the Bar were called upon to assist athletes and officials who required representation in sporting disputes before The Court of Arbitration for Sport, or in criminal proceedings. These legal services were provided in conjunction with members of the Law Institute of Victoria.
Our members are regularly called upon to assist sporting groups in administrative matters. This may include the review and amendment of a constitution, acting as an arbitrator in disputes between athletes and the sport, or sitting as a member of a selection committee.
The Bar's sports law group is in regular contact with its counterpart at the Law Institute of Victoria. Their current discussions focus on two initiatives:
- Joint presentations to suburban and country legal practitioners on issues where sports law practitioners can be of assistance to both the practitioners and local clients, such as sporting teams and sports associations
- Establishment of a pro bono register of practitioners who can offer assistance in appropriate cases