Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 15:30
BLACKTOWN & DISTRICTS SOCCER FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION INC
P & D C and APPEAL PROCEDURES
The following procedures are laid down for the guidance of all disciplinary committees operating within the structure of The BDSFA Inc.
Clubs must hold their judiciary meetings as per this document and in all cases inform the Association immediately with the results of the meeting.
Principles of Natural Justice, which may be summarised as:
1. Knowledge of the Accusation Made
Any offender shall, prior to any hearing, have enough knowledge about what is alleged against an offender to adequately put a case.
a. A player must be told what charge he received when sent from the field. This may be done at the time, or afterwards through the team Manager unless impractical because of the situation of the game. At the hearing, as a minimum requirement, the full charge shall be read out to the accused at the beginning of proceedings.
b. Any person being cited, that is,
1. A player for actions off the field of play, or
2. A team official or
3. A Club when dealing with the actions of a spectator,
must be advised of the charge being brought at the time of being citied to appear. The charge shall be advised in writing, as part of the citing letter. If a citation is not covered by any minimum sentence, the rule about innocent until proven guilty applies. The rule about a speedy hearing applies. Otherwise, a player or team official is permitted or act (play, coach) until the case is heard.
2. Protection of the Rights of an Accused Party at a Hearing
It is an absolute requirement that an accused person shall hear all evidence on which a committee makes its determination. That is, the accused must be present throughout any hearing, and no evidence which is considered is to be heard or presented without the accused being present.
When an accused party fails to appear when required to do so, two things happen:
a. Any player who has been red carded is suspended until the player does appear, and any official reports must be kept.
b. Where a person is cited, they must be given an opportunity to give a reason why they cannot attend at a particular day and time. If non- attendance goes beyond fourteen (14) days, the case should be heard and records kept.
c. A decision should be arrived at whether to
1. dismiss the case, or
2. to suspend or otherwise deal with the person cited, pending that person’s appearance at some later time if the accused wants to challenge the decision.
The Committee is not permitted to see or take into account any material which is not available to the accused unless there are quite exceptional cases which must be explained fully to the accused. A reasonable time has to be given to any cited person to prepare a case.
3. Opportunity to State a Case
This is an opportunity. It is not a requirement. The accused party shall not be required or pressured to make a statement or to produce any case unless there is a wish to do so. However, any failure to respond to questions or accusations in circumstances where a committee thinks it appropriate may have a bearing on any ultimate decision.
In some situations, an accused may not want to make any statement because it may be used in a Court action. That is their right. In this case, the accused shall be suspended until ready to take part in a hearing and the immediate hearing adjourned until then.
A Football body is NOT prevented from hearing a case if it is going to Court. Any tribunal under the jurisdiction of Soccer NSW is not an official tribunal, and any hearing conducted is not recognised at a subsequent Court hearing. This is based on Supreme Court rulings.
The accused has the right:
1 To ask questions, but only through the Chair, never directly of another party. This is not a direct cross-examination situation - the aim is to keep tensions as low as possible.
2 To produce any material which may be considered relevant - documents, statements, photographs and video material.
However, any video material may only be used with respect to a matter of fact, or for identification purposes, never a matter of interpretation.
It is, of course, a matter for the Committee to decide what weight, if any, should be given to any such evidence, how reliable it is, how far it goes towards proving or otherwise a particular fact.
Character evidence shall be allowed, but what weight is given to that is again up to the Committee. Questions are not permitted to be asked of the accused as to any prior (bad) record, either explicitly or implicitly.
Any accused may offer evidence of good character. However any evidence of a bad record may only be taken into account after the question of guilt or otherwise has been decided. That is, in fixing a penalty.
4. Fixed Penalties
The BDSFA Inc has a fixed penalty for a send off, such as one game automatic suspension. We also have a fixed range of penalties. In these cases, a number of considerations apply:
1 There must be provision for a Committee, in reviewing a case before a hearing, to decide to call an offender before them where more than the minimum penalty may apply. Or, where there is no minimum-maximum penalty, the same consideration applies.
2 There must also be provision allowing an offender to appear, as of right, to argue against any suspension on top of the send-off itself (that is, not to serve any automatic suspension period).
3 Where there are minimum-maximum penalty ranges, there must be provision for automatic acceptance of the minimum by an offender (subject to the right to appear to argue against any minimum) or the Committee must have the offender before them if they wish to consider a penalty above the minimum.
4 Any sentence must be specific as to what the accused is suspended from, e.g. all soccer activities or just from playing. In the absence of any qualification, any suspension shall be seen as a suspension from all soccer activities, but it is preferable that the actual terms of the suspension be clearly and explicitly stated.
5 What the sentence covers. It must be clear in the sentence whether it is for a number of games or a period of time.
6 It must be clear in the sentence whether from all games in any competition at any level. In the absence of any such qualification, any suspension shall be seen as applying to any and all competitions during the period of suspension.
7 If a sentence specifies a number of games, our Rules state which games may or may not be counted. Any unofficial match such as trial games, Knockouts and washed out games (or lost Rounds) do not count towards a suspension.
Forfeits may be counted if a score is awarded to the suspended players’ team.
8 It is recognised that any player or official who is suspended by any affiliate of Soccer NSW (BDSFA Inc) is also suspended from the activities of any and all other affiliates of Soccer NSW and all other affiliates of Soccer Australia. Unless a specific ruling to the contrary is included in the ruling of the determining authority (the hearing) at the time the sentence is announced.
9 A sentence shall carry over from one season to another until completed.
10 It is not necessary for a player to be registered for a new season in order to complete a period of suspension. E.G., if a person gets a three-year suspension in mid season, the player then sits out the rest of that season, does not register for the next two yeas, then registers for the third year, misses the first half of the season, and may then resume playing.
5. Committee to Act in Good Faith
1 Appearances are important in applying the principles of natural justice. In particular, a Committee must keep an open mind about any matters before it until all the evidence is in. No comment may be made during a hearing by any member of the panel which might suggest any particular decision could be arrived at.
No member of the Committee may have any close association with the accused party, or be a member of the Club, or be an active member of a Club or Association which is appealing or being appealed against, or have any material interest in the outcome.
The following procedures are relevant:
2 The accused shall be introduced to the Committee members, and may challenge the appropriateness of any person(s) on the Committee. However, it is then up to the Committee, under all the circumstances, to rule on any such challenge.
3 The general form of the proceedings to be followed shall be outlined, including any assistance given to allow the accused to present a case.
4 Witnesses should be called separately where practicable. Both the accused and members of the Committee shall be present throughout a hearing. The accused shall be given every opportunity to present a case, and shall be allowed to present witnesses and supporting evidence. The same rights apply to those bringing a charge.
However, the Committee Chair has the right to call a halt to duplication or repetition of evidence or any straying outside the bounds of the case before them.
5 Determination of any charge by a Committee is not “beyond reasonable doubt”, as required at a criminal trial, but rather a standard of proof which the Committee is comfortable with, having regard to the seriousness of the matter before them.
6 At the conclusion of a hearing and after the handing down of a decision, the accused shall be advised of any rights of appeal, to whom, and any time limit that may apply. This is an absolute requirement. It is not an option.
7 BDSFA Inc discourages the use of legal representatives at any hearing. If legal representatives are to be used, then the hearing body must be informed prior to the case.
A solicitor who is a Club chairman or Secretary may argue for an accused person in their official Club capacity, but no more than in that capacity.
If an accused intends to have a legal representative, this must be advised to the hearing body in good time. Provision will be made for the Hearing Committee to have a solicitor present to advise them, and the cost of this will be charged to the accused person.
6 APPEAL PROCEDURES
Who must be present or involved in any appeal at any level:
1 Three parties must be present:
a. The person or party charged (e.g. a player, official or Club),
b. The person or party who originally brought the charge or case:
c. A representative of the Committee whose decision is being appealed against, although where circumstances dictate, a statement by this Committee in writing is an alternative and this must include the reasons why their decision was arrived at.
2 The original charge, if by a referee, can still be the original written report. The match official(s), if the appeal involves the referee(s), shall be given the opportunity to be present. If the match official declines to be present, the report cannot be tested and any evidence contrary to the referee’s report shall be given more weight.
3 Where an appeal is out of time according to the Rules it is still possible to appeal. However approval must be obtained.
The point is to stop any party simply trying to bypass one level of appeal for a higher one, for whatever reason, or simply deciding to “have a go” at some future date, without explicit permission. In other words, serious and good reasons should not be dismissed in allowing an appeal. But trivial reasons or none will lead to dismissal of the application to be heard out of time. Refusal to hold an appeal can itself be appealed, but any consideration of such a case shall be dealt with separately and before the main case can be heard.
6.2 Grounds for appeal.
In general, there are three main grounds:
1 Severity of sentence. Here, the offence is conceded but the case is against length or severity of sentence or extent of any ban (e.g. from all soccer activities or from some activities only).
2 New evidence, or more frequently, evidence improperly dealt with, not given sufficient weight etc.
3 Unfair treatment of the accused or the case being presented, material witnesses not allowed to be heard etc.
6.3 A letter of appeal must state:
1 What exactly is the decision they are appealing against, that is, the exact wording of the previous determination must be provided, and
2 Which of the above grounds in 6.2 are being used, either alone or in combination.
7. Speedy Hearings.
Any determination holds good until it is changed on appeal.
For this reason, any appeal must be heard as soon as possible and, in the case of the suspension of a player or official, within 10 days of lodging an appeal. (BDSFA Inc Rules are that an Appeal will be formed the Friday following the receipt of the suspension.)
Fines on Clubs or decisions on forfeits or loss of points etc., may be held over for a little longer. However, the consequences of any such delay (eg. A replay) cannot be allowed to influence any decision which may be arrived at.
No person who sat on a case at any previous level is allowed to sit on the same case at a higher level of hearing.
8. Referees as Members of Hearing Panels
Whenever there is any question of the Laws of The Game, a referee’s delegate must be asked to sit on the panel hearing the case.
The referee member is there to offer expert advice, and the referee’s explanation shall be taken as authoritative and final.
The referee shall not be a voting member of the panel, and shall not be counted as part of the quorum, but shall remain with the panel during all deliberative stages to offer expert advice on the Laws of The Game.