chapter  9
Pages 14

This chapter is concerned with the extensive disciplinary powers ordinarily possessed by sports governing bodies, and in particular with the absence of effective external supervision of how these bodies exercise those powers. It reconsiders the ramifications of the several failed applications for judicial review which were brought against governing bodies after R v Panel on Takeovers and Mergers ex p Datafin (1987) had, ostensibly, provided the courts with the opportunity to extend judicial review to the decisions of these bodies. The courts’ subsequent refusal to do so attracted comment (Morris and Little, 1998) but, after R v Disciplinary Committee of the Jockey Club ex p Aga Khan (1993) and the other ‘sports cases’, the issue appeared to be of academic interest only. However, this situation may be in need of reappraisal in the light of Parliament’s decision not to provide a definition of ‘public authority’ for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. That decision means that the sports cases may now have a new relevance, for Parliament has entrusted the courts with the task of defining ‘public authority’ and has charged them with deciding, on a case by case basis, whether a particular body is a ‘public’ one for the purposes of the Act. If the courts were to adopt a broader interpretation of ‘public authority’ than they adopted for judicial review purposes, then sports bodies could fall within the ambit of that broad interpretation and some restrictions might be placed on the extent of their disciplinary powers. Accordingly, the future relevance of the sports cases lay not in their contribution to analysis of the law on judicial review, but in how they might influence the courts’ deliberations over the meaning of ‘public policy’ for the purposes of the 1998 Act.