CEO’s Review of the Year
2021 was another challenging year for us all because of the continuing COVID pandemic. Sport proved resilient in finding solutions to bring back and conclude events and competitions, and the sporting calendar had a familiar feel from mid-year not least with the Olympics, Paralympics and UEFA European Football Championships all taking place after a 12-month delay.
Sporting bodies and athletes adapted to this new environment with conviction and resilience and Sport Resolutions (SR) had to respond to these challenges in a flexible and agile way. Indeed, SR had one of its busiest years notwithstanding these difficulties.
In January we entered into an agreement with the International Testing Agency (ITA) to operate the International Hearing Panel (IHP) to determine first instance anti-doping matters for non-Olympic international sport federations or any other anti-doping organisations wishing to make use of the tribunal. The IHP is constituted of members of the SR International Panel of Arbitrators, bringing significant experience in determining anti-doping rule violations.
Shortly after the agreement was concluded, 13 of WADA’s Regional Anti-Doping Organisations (RADOs) opted to use the services of the IHP to refer national level matters in regions where the RADO oversees results management. These included the RADOs of Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa Zones I-III and V-VI, West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean and Oceania.
SR also agreed to assist the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to appoint an independent panel (Eligibility Determination Panel – EDP) to make eligibility assessments of candidates for election to the IWF’s Board and committees. The EDP considered the applications by applying the relevant criteria, communicating its decision to the IWF in accordance with its Terms of Reference.
World Athletics has also requested that SR provide administrative and secretariat support for its Athletics Integrity Unit for a further four year period.
We were also delighted to assist the International Tennis Federation (ITF) by operating and administering an ad hoc Independent Tribunal during the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas and the 2021 Davis Cup by Rakuten finals respectively.
SR’s new panel
We have completed our three-yearly task of reviewing our various panels. The size and diversity of our panel has increased so that it now contains over 280 members across every continent, providing coverage in 19 different languages. Given the growth in our international work, this breadth and diversity is highly valued and increasingly recognised.
We were again successful in securing the contract from the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to administer the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) for a further 3 years in April 2021. The decision was reached following an open tender process and after the DCMS conducted a detailed analysis of SR’s submission against evaluation criteria that included an assessment of the skills, expertise and understanding of the doping sector held by SR and its nominated panel members.
Over the last few years SR has experienced an increasing need for safeguarding support for sport. We administered the FA Review undertaken by Clive Sheldon QC, a thorough and difficult process that ran from December 2016 to its conclusion in March 2021. The importance of this work, and the challenging and distressing nature of the subject, cannot be underestimated. The bravery and courage of those who spoke out must be applauded and recognised, but the stoicism and dedication of Mr Sheldon’s team and my colleagues at SR should also be noted.
SR is also providing support in relation to the on-going safeguarding review of British Gymnastics. Again, this is a complex and sensitive matter involving a significant number of people in and around the sport.
SR has also been working closely with Sport England to deliver a unique service to support NGBs with the management of their safeguarding cases. During the pilot phase, 9 NGBs were provided with support from SR and our panel members. This assistance covered the initial advice and guidance required at the point of referral as well as the provision of hearing panels at the end of the process. It also allowed NGBs to request SR’s support in assisting with an independent investigation to look into any allegations that had been made. Due credit and recognition needs to be paid to Sport England for their support and encouragement throughout. That support has continued and will enable SR to develop plans to expand the service to more NGBs who may need support. As part of this work, SR launched the new Investigation Guide and templates to assist NGB safeguarding teams and members of the National Safeguarding Panel in the conduct of safeguarding investigations that they undertake as part of their role.
In July 2021 we welcomed Audley Sheppard QC as the new Chair of the Sport Resolutions’ Board, taking over from Edwin Glasgow CBE QC.
Audley is a Partner of the international law firm Clifford Chance LLP, and has specialised in dispute resolution for over thirty years. He is also the Chair of the London Court of International Arbitration company. His great wealth of experience in international dispute resolution, and in leadership of diverse boards, has already been a valuable asset for our organisation, and we look forward to working with him in the years ahead.
I must also pay tribute to our retired Chair Edwin Glasgow QC. It has been an honour and privilege to have worked so closely with him over the last five years. I shall miss his wisdom, counsel and humour and wish to record my gratitude for his unfailing support, given willingly at any hour of the day. Our success would not have been possible without him.
As a result of our success and growth in recent years, both at national and international level, we needed a bigger and more modern space to cater for both in-person and virtual processes. After 19 months of working from home our staff reunited in-person, albeit briefly, in November at the new office in St Paul’s, London.
The new facility allows us access to the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC)’s modern and fully equipped rooms for our arbitrations, mediations and meetings.
Whilst we have many fond memories of our old office at 1 Salisbury Square, which had been our home since 2011, we are thrilled to be starting the next chapter for Sport Resolutions in our new home.
Due to the restrictions in the first half of 2021, we took the decision to replace our in-person conference with a virtual event which successfully took place in March in association with Winston & Strawn LLP. In line with previous events, we had an experienced panel of sport professionals and industry experts to discuss brain injury in sport, anti-doping and sports governance moderated by the excellent Jacqui Oatley MBE.
Earlier this month we also had an online discussion where we discussed the College Athletes US Supreme Court judgment and transgender athlete rights. The event was expertly chaired by radio and TV broadcaster Jason Mohammad.
We remain hopeful of returning to an in-person format for the next annual conference in May 2022 at the Royal Leonardo Hotel St Paul’s. We will be releasing details of the event in due course but please save the date of Thursday 5th May 2022!
We have all endured the slings and arrows of the pandemic and my sincere hope is that we can all enjoy a well-earned break with loved ones and family. It only remains for me to convey my very best wishes to you all for the festive season.