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UK Sport Eligibility Policy – note to members

UK Sport last week issued its new Eligibility Policy for Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel, together with Rules of Procedure for decisions made under the Policy. The Policy applies to athletes or ASPs who are on, or are nominated for, the World Class programme funded by UK Sport. The Policy sets criteria for when athletes will or may be ineligible for National Lottery funding and support services and other benefits (whether funded directly by UK Sport of through NGBs etc). The Policy is now live. We recommend you read the attached copy of the Policy and Rules, but for convenience we have summarised some of the key points below.

The Policy and Rules were subject to a consultation process which the BAC contributed to earlier this year. We supported the objectives of the Policy but did raise a number of points which required clarification or amendment to ensure fairness to our members. We are pleased to say that all of our significant comments and concerns have been addressed in the final version of the Policy and Rules.

UK Sport has indicated that it will be issuing further guidance on the Policy in due course, which we will keep you up to date with as relevant.

Please contact us if you have any questions and if you receive a communication from UK Sport about your eligibility, please get in touch with us immediately – we will be happy to help you and discuss the matter on a confidential basis.

BAC

Eligibility Policy for Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel, and Rules of Procedure.

A.            The Policy.

1.            Rationale & purpose.

The investment of public funds in athletes has always been positioned as a privilege and not a right, and UK Sport has a responsibility to uphold high standards of conduct from athletes it funds.  UK Sports states that “It is this responsibility to continue to ‘inspire a generation’ through our elite athletes’ achievements that has led us to take a closer look at the eligibility of individual athletes….based on their conduct, to include areas such as criminal convictions, match fixing and corruption, doping, disrepute and false representations.” 

The Policy enables UK Sport to withdraw, or limit the level of funding and support that an athlete receives, in circumstances where their conduct warrants this.

If an athlete’s eligibility is in doubt, decisions are referred to a Sub-Committee of UK Sport. The Sub-Committee’s decisions are then appealable by the athlete to an Appeal Panel appointed and administered by Sports Resolutions UK.

Note that the Policy expressly excludes decisions as to performance and selection to the National Governing Bodies’ World Class Programmes. It also clarifies that the a decision under the Policy cannot prevent ultimate selection of an athlete by an NGB, the BOA or BPA.

2.            Essential requirements.

The Policy states that there are certain essential requirements which must be satisfied before an athlete is eligible for support, including for example:

( )      eligibility to compete for Team GB, ParalympicsGB or the National Team (as relevant);

(a)    nationality;

(b)   right to work in the UK; and

(c)    that the athlete is not already serving a suspension or period of ineligibility from their sport.

3.            Eligibility criteria.

The Policy then lists a number of circumstances under which an athlete may be ineligible for funding/benefits. These include:

(a)    convictions: the athlete has an unspent conviction;

(b)   doping: a 2 year or more sanction has been imposed on the athlete for a breach of anti-doping rules. (Note that in relation to doping sanctions of under 2 years, the Policy will not apply but UK Sport will follow its obligations under the National Anti-Doping Policy, essentially this means withdrawing/clawing back funding and benefits during the period of ineligibility);

(c)    corruption: the athlete is in breach of rules on betting, corrupt conduct or match fixing and a ban has been imposed on them as a result;

(d)   misconduct & disrepute: the individual has done something which brings themselves, the National Lottery or UK Sport etc into disrepute. The Policy includes a helpful list of examples on page 5, which includes:

  • issuing malicious, hateful or harmful tweets or comments on social networking sites;
  • committing an offence where it is dealt with by caution or reprimand;
  • making sexist or racist remarks or jokes;
  •  distributing obscene or offensive images.

(e)   false representations: the individual knowingly makes false statements and/or fails to make full and fair disclosures when applying for funding or benefits in order to receive or maximise the benefits received.

In relation to (a)-(c) above, UK Sport will take primary account of the outcome of other processes which the athlete has been subject to, for example a decision of the courts, a National Governing Body or UK Anti-Doping. UK Sport will generally wait for the outcome of such decisions but may in certain circumstances impose a temporary suspension of funding/benefits pending the outcome.

In relation to (d) and (e) above, UK Sport will take direct action as these are not reliant upon the outcome of another decision making body.

4.            Consequences of ineligibility.

If the Sub-Committee (or on appeal, the Appeal Panel) find that the essential requirements are not fulfilled the athlete will be ineligible. If it finds any of the circumstances listed above at point 3 apply, it may decide on a number of consequences ranging from issuing a warning to declaring that the athlete is ineligible to receive funding and/or benefits (in whole or in part) for a specified period of time or indefinitely.

A ‘claw-back’ of benefits that the athlete has been in receipt of during the period which the athlete was in breach of the Policy may also be applied.

In real terms this means that, for a specific or indefinite period, an athlete may not receive an Athlete Performance Award, and may not be entitled to benefits funded by or via UK Sport, such as coaching support, clothing and equipment, and travel and accommodation at camps and events.

In relation to claw-back, in addition to paying back relevant monies paid to the athlete, repayment representing benefits received may be required. UK Sport indicates that the annual value of a place on the World Class programme is approximately £60,000 (podium) or £40,000 (podium potential).

Note that the above is not an exhaustive list of consequences – a useful list of the potential implications of ineligibility is given on page 7 of the Policy.

The decision makers have a high degree of flexibility in determining what decision to impose, and the Policy allows them to take into account a number of mitigating factors, including:

(f)     conduct since the issue arose – eg remorsefulness, being open and truthful, co-operation with UK Sport or relevant authorities;

(g)    previous high standards of conduct;

(h)   inexperience or vulnerability;

(i)      lapse of time.

The Policy also allows an athlete to reapply to the Sub-Committee if circumstances change after the decision is made.

Decisions of the Sub-Committee can be appealed to the Appeal Panel, which will hear the case “de novo” (ie afresh, from the beginning) and the decision of the Appeal Panel is final and binding on all parties.

B.            Rules of Procedure.

Hopefully the Policy will not impact the majority of our members and therefore we don’t intend to run through the rules of procedure in detail here – please read the attached Rules for full details.

If your eligibility is doubted by UK Sport, they will notify you. The most important thing is to act quickly. The BAC will be able to help guide you through the process, but note that you will only have 10 working days from receipt of papers from UK Sport to submit a statement of your eligibility. You will then have an opportunity to attend a meeting of the Sub-Committee (with a representative) at which your eligibility will be considered, and you can call witnesses and/or experts as necessary. Alternatively you can agree that the Sub-Committee will consider your eligibility based on the papers submitted.

Decisions of the Sub-Committee will be made within 10 working days of the meeting and communicated to the athlete who will then have 15 working days to submit a request for an appeal to SRUK. As mentioned above the Appeal Panel will hear the appeal de novo and unless the parties agree otherwise, there will be a full hearing. The Appeal Panel can annul and replace the Sub-Committee’s decision, and can apply the same consequences as are open to the Sub-Committee if they decide the athlete is ineligible (see point 4 above).

There are certain safeguards built into the Rules to protect athletes – for example the timing and location of meetings/hearings will take account of the athlete’s availability.  However note that, while UK Sport will normally pay the administrative costs of the meeting/appeal, UK Sport may request a reimbursement of costs for an appeal, and UK Sport will not reimburse the athlete’s cost, even if their appeal is successful.

Please note that this note is a summary only and not intended to be legal advice and should not be relied upon.

 

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