Football governing bodies breaching the Human Rights of players

The rights of footballers

From certain high profile decisions such as the Bosman case and the Webber case in relation to the transfer of players we can see that footballers have the same rights as any other individuals within society.

When the decisions handed down by the football authorities significantly infringe the rights that are guaranteed to all individuals by various laws then the legal world will step in and force the sporting bodies to change their rules.

As a consequence of this notion it is clear that the Human Rights Act should apply directly to the rights of individuals undertaking the sport of football as a living on a professional basis.

The Human Rights Act 1998

Section 6 of the Human Rights Act

Section 6 of the Human Rights Act provides that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention Right.

What is meant by the term public authority?

Under the Human Rights Act a public authority includes any person certain of whose functions are of a public nature.

Would a sporting governing body be viewed as a public authority?

In certain decisions sporting governing bodies have been viewed as public authorities for the purpose of the Human Rights Act, in fact when the Act was being passed the then Home Secretary expressed his feeling that the jockey club should be regarded as a public authority.

Furthermore the Olympic Charter views the practice of sport as a human right.

Accordingly it would be reasonable to assume that a sporting governing body would be regarded as a public authority and in the context of English football this would include the Football Association.

In what possible ways could the decisions of the Football Association be viewed as a possible infringement of the Human Rights Act?

There are two main aspects in which the decisions of the Football Association could be viewed as breaching the human rights of the players involved. They are as follows:

  • Independence and impartiality
  • Strict Liability offences

Independence and Impartiality

Article 6(1) of the Human Rights Act states that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

When will a tribunal be viewed as independent?

It has been held that a tribunal will be regarded as independent by taking the following three factors into consideration:

  • The appointment process for tribunal members
  • The guarantees offered against outside pressures
  • Whether there is an appearance of independence

When looking at tribunals made up for the purpose of disciplinary proceedings by the Football Association it may be difficult to account for point 2 above.

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For more information on:

  • Strict Liability Offences
  • Does the Football Association impose the same kind of penalty?
  • Is this fair for sporting associations to do this?
  • Would this breach the right of a fair trial under the Human Rights Act?
  • What other areas of law impose a concept of strict liability?
  • Is this in breach of the Human Rights Act?
  • Why is there this notion of strict liability?