CEO’s Review of the Year
2022 has been another busy year for Sport Resolutions, with the development of key services within the UK and continued expansion of our international work. It would be impossible to cover all our work in this piece, so only some of our highlights are set out below.
Safeguarding Case Management Programme
The Safeguarding Case Management Programme pilot (SCMP) was established with the backing of Sport England to provide participating NGB’s with end-to-end support in relation to the case management of safeguarding matters. The NGB’s on the pilot considered the SCMP to be a vital element in safeguarding case management, resulting in Sport England making the service permanent and increasing the number of NGBs able to access the service. The service provides participating NGBs with the ability to access initial advice and assistance, investigation support and the provision of a hearing panel.
To provide this service, SR has increased its internal resources and has bolstered the safeguarding capacity of our panel. 80% of eligible NGBs had joined the Programme by September 2022 with a further cohort being welcomed in January 2023.
It is interesting to note that general safeguarding referrals to the National Safeguarding Panel increased by 250% from the previous year. This is not to suggest that there are more safeguarding issues in sport, rather it is more likely to be a result of individuals being more knowledgeable about what is, and is not, acceptable behaviour coupled with a preparedness to speak out when things are not as they should be. This, I would suggest, is a positive step in the right direction and due recognition should be given to Sport England for its vision and support.
Another novel initiative implemented during the year is Sport Integrity. This service is funded by UK Sport with the aim of providing those in high-performance sport the means and ability to disclose concerns and complaints in a confidential way.
It has been recognised for some time that, for whatever reason, some in elite sport are reluctant to raise concerns directly with their NGB. The establishment of Sport Integrity will hopefully help to remove the potential barrier to the raising of legitimate concerns. The service provides an initial assessment and independent investigation of the allegations made. Two-thirds of eligible NGBs signed-up to the service within 6 months of the launch, comprising nearly 80% of all athletes on the World Class Programme.
It is hoped that SI will permit early identification of issues and concerns, promote the early resolution of disputes, maintaining good working relationships and avoiding harmful escalation.
SR continues to increase the volume and breadth of its international work. Our agreements to provide tribunal services to World Athletics (through the AIU) and the International Tennis Federation (through the ITIA) have been renewed and it remains a privilege to be trusted by them to provide expert and independent tribunals.
We have also welcomed other International Federations to such as World Netball, World Triathlon and the World Darts Federation. Separately, the PGA European Tour has written Sport Resolutions into its appeal rules.
To reflect the international nature of this work, SR has increased the linguistic capability of our case management team and we have also improved the diversity, geographical coverage and spoken languages of our panel members.
This year SR also provided a number of independent ad-hoc panels for international federations’ championships and other international competitions including the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the Rugby League World Cup 2021 (2022), the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge and Davis Cup by Rakuten finals.
Pro Bono Assistance for Athletes
Requests for pro bono assistance have increased by nearly 50% since last year and support has been provided to athletes from every continent and in several languages. The availability of such legal support provides equality of arms, ensures fairness and assists tribunals with the preparation of presentation of cases. It should also be acknowledged that the support of our Pro Bono Service members has saved the sport sector many millions of pounds since its inception in 2012.
Looking to the Future
Sport Resolutions is in discussions with a number of bodies to provide assistance with establishing new processes to support the regulation of leagues and sports. I hope to be able to provide an update in future reports.
As an example, in 2022, SR was appointed by the EFL to assist with the establishment of its Club Financial Review Panel (CFRP). At an Extraordinary General Meeting on Thursday 8 December 2022, EFL clubs unanimously approved the formation of the CFRP and its membership as recommended by SR after a thorough recruitment process. The independent expert panel appointed will monitor compliance of the EFL’s Financial Regulations and determine sanctions in the event of a breach.
Sport Resolutions intends to maintain its role in promoting good practice by continuing with our series of seminars, webinars and other events. On 10 January 2023, we will be hosting a seminar on safeguarding leadership aimed at those in board and leadership roles, safeguarding leads and legal professionals and on 2 February 2023, we will be delivering a seminar on the benefits of mediation in sports disputes.
We have also recently announced the date for our 2023 Annual Conference. It will take place in-person on Thursday 4th May in London. As in previous years, the event will bring together sport professionals and industry experts to discuss and debate current issues in the areas of anti-doping, athlete welfare, safeguarding, good governance and integrity.
Sport continues to play an important part in the lives of many – be that participating or watching. With so much at stake, it remains as important as ever that the processes and procedures that govern how sport is run are fit for purpose and appropriate for the matter at hand.
The need for independence and expertise is routinely being incorporated into rules and regulations, and Sport Resolutions is playing an increasingly active role in assisting sports and leagues, both within the UK and internationally, with the establishment and operation of such systems.
We are proud to be at the heart of resolving disputes in sport, and we remain mindful always of the impact that decisions can have on athletes, coaches, clubs and others involved at all levels.
To be able to discharge our duties we remain indebted to our many panel members for their dedication and expertise. In addition, as is now customary, it is right to thank and acknowledge the support of those on the Sport Resolutions Pro Bono panel, who provide legal advice and support to many who may otherwise have to navigate processes that are alien and complicated. We are proud that the Pro Bono Service has been running for a decade, having started life as a bespoke service to cover the duration of the London 2012 Olympics.
My thanks also go to my colleagues, the incredible and efficient Sport Resolutions staff, who without fail provide the support and expertise required for all the myriad matters that now come through to us.
Finally, it only remains for me to extend my very best wishes for the festive season and to hope for health and good fortune for all in 2023.