Sean Jacob v Irish Amateur Rowing Union Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMs. Justice Laffoy
Judgment Date10 June 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] IEHC 196
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[2008 No. 4248P],[No. 4248P/2008]
Date10 June 2008

[2008] IEHC 196

THE HIGH COURT

[No. 4248P/2008]
Jacob v Irish Amateur Rowing Union Ltd

BETWEEN

SEAN JACOB
PLAINTIFF

AND

IRISH AMATEUR ROWING UNION LIMITED
DEFENDANT

AMERICAN CYANAMID CO v ETHICON LTD 1975 AC 396

CAMPUS OIL LTD v MIN FOR INDUSTRY (NO 2) 1983 IR 88

DELANY EQUITY & THE LAW OF TRUSTS IN IRELAND 4ED 2007 538

NWL LTD v WOODS 1979 3 AER 614

CAYNE & ANOR v GLOBAL NATURAL RESOURCES 1984 1 AER 225

QUIRKE v BORD LUTHCHLEAS NA HEIREANN 1988 1 IR 83

INJUNCTION

Interlocutory

Discretionary relief - Grant or refusal resulting in disposal of substantive matter - Principles to be applied - Balance of risk of injustice - Conflict on evidence - Strength of plaintiff's case on evidence - Whether so strong that injustice to refuse injunction - Sporting event - Amateur rowing - Injunction to facilitate participation in 2008 Olympic Games qualifying event - American Cyanamid v Ethicon [1975] AC 396 distinguished; NWL Ltd v Woods [1979] 1 WLR 1294 and Cayne v Global Natural Resources plc [1984] 1 All ER 225 approved; Campus Oil Ltd v Minister for Industry and Commerce (No 2) [1983] IR 88 considered - - Injunction refused (2008/4248P - Laffoy J - 10/6/2008) [2008] IEHC 196

Jacob v Irish Amateur Rowing Union Ltd

SPORTS LAW

Injunction

Team selection - Amateur rowing - Selection to national squad to compete at qualifying regatta for Olympic Games - Decision of organisation governing particular sport as to selection for competitive events - Whether judicial intervention in decision warranted - American Cyanamid v Ethicon [1975] AC 396 distinguished; NWL Ltd v Woods [1979] 1 WLR 1294 and Cayne v Global Natural Resources plc [1984] 1 All ER 225 approved; Campus Oil Ltd v Minister for Industry and Commerce (No 2) [1983] IR 88 considered; Quirke v Bord Luthcleas na hEireann [1988] 1 IR 83 distinguished - Injunction refused (2008/4248P - Laffoy J - 10/6/2008) [2008] IEHC 196

Jacob v Irish Amateur Rowing Union Ltd

Facts: The plaintiff oarsman who wished to qualify for the Olympics sought an injunction restraining the defendant from preventing the plaintiff competing at a regatta in Poland. The plaintiff alleged that a public law dispute existed and that he had a legitimate expectation to compete.

Held by Laffoy J. in balancing the risk of injustice, that the Court would refuse the injunction sought. In the absence of bad faith, it was difficult to see how the Courts involvement could be warranted.

Reporter: E.F.

1

Ms. Justice Laffoy delivered on the 10th day of June, 2008 .

The relief claimed
2

On this application for an interlocutory injunction the plaintiff seeks injunctions in the following terms:

3

(a) an injunction restraining the defendant from preventing the plaintiff competing at a regatta in Poznan, Poland (the Poznan Regatta) on 15 thJune, 2008 in his chosen discipline and;

4

(b) an injunction requiring the defendant to take all necessary steps to ensure the plaintiff's participation in the Poznan Regatta.

Factual Background
5

The factual background to the application is that the plaintiff, who is an oarsman, for the past two and a half years has devoted his life to international rowing with the ultimate objective of qualifying for and competing at the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing. During that period he has participated in the international selection and training programme organised by the defendant leading to the 2008 Olympics Games. For part of the period he has been in receipt of a grant from the Irish Sports Council, which he used to fund training camps and also subsistence.

6

Organisation of international rowing in Ireland is under the aegis of the defendant, which is affiliated to the Federation Internationale des Sociétés de l'Aviron (F.I.S.A.), which in turn is affiliated to the International Olympic Committee. F.I.S.A organises the World Rowing Championships and series of International Regattas. Only national associations such as the defendant can make entries to F.I.S.A. regattas. The defendant organises a national squad and appoints a team manager and a coach. It receives subvention from the Irish Sports Council.

7

The plaintiff was selected for the national team for the 2006 season and the 2007 season. He represented Ireland in the single scull class at the World Championship in 2006 and also in 2007. On each occasion he finished in thirteenth position. There are fourteen places available in the 2008 Olympic Games in the single scull class for the category of nations to which Ireland belongs. Eleven of those places were filled on the basis of ranking at the 2007 World Championship. The remaining three places will be filled on the basis of ranking at the Poznan Regatta.

8

Following the 2007 World Championship, not having qualified for the 2008 Olympics Games, the plaintiff had to decide whether he would continue to participate in international rowing with a view to qualifying at the Poznan Regatta. He decided that he would and his case is that he did so on the basis of encouragement from the defendant's then team manager and of the team coach and on the basis of a representation that he would compete at the Poznan Regatta in 2008 . The defendant's position is that no such representation was made; that selection on an national squad for international competitions is on the basis of capability of the athlete at the time of selection; retention of a place in the squad is dependant upon performance and performance of all athletes is subject to continuous assessment; and, in the event of a decreasing level of performance, an athlete may be dropped from the squad at any time. There is a conflict of evidence between the parties as to when a member of the national squad for international competitions may be de-selected. In particular, the plaintiff has denied that there was a process of continuous assessment in place under which a member of the squad might be dropped at any time and has asserted that he never had any knowledge of such a process.

9

The plaintiff was selected for the 2008 season and participated in the defendant's training plan throughout the spring of 2008 . Following an injury and an illness earlier in the season, the plaintiff contracted a viral infection in April, 2008, and, as is common case, that illness affected his performance. The first major competitive event of the year was the World Cup Regatta in Munich between 9 th and 11 th May, 2008 . It is common case that prior to that event, because he was recovering from the viral infection, the plaintiff was performing below his potential, but it is also common case that at that stage he was improving and that it was envisaged that he could be fit enough to compete at the Poznan Regatta over a month later. His preparation for Munich was approached on that basis and he did not do the type of "sharpening up" he would normally do before such an event. It is also common case that the plaintiff did not perform well at the Munich Regatta. On the 11 th May, 2008, the plaintiff was informed by the team manager and the team coach that he would no longer take part in the 2008 Irish rowing team for the Poznan Regatta, on the basis of their assessment that he would not achieve qualification for the Olympics.

10

Following that decision, the plaintiff was informed of his entitlement to appeal to the International Rowing Committee of the defendant. On the 14 th May, 2008, he submitted his appeal in writing to that Committee. He made his case on the basis of his past performance, including his performance in 2008 despite illness. He argued that he would be able to return to top form within the succeeding five weeks. He also asked the Committee to take into account that his understanding was that the Munich Regatta was going to be a stepping stone, that he did not prepare for it on the basis that it was a selection event, and that he had never been informed of any criteria he might have to meet in order to be selected for Poznan. The plaintiff's appeal to the Committee was rejected. He was informed on the 15 th May, 2008, of his right of appeal to the Board of the defendant. The defendant did appeal and on the 20 th May, 2008 he was informed of the decision of the Board to uphold the decision of the International Rowing Committee.

11

On the 22 nd May, 2008, the plaintiff's solicitors wrote to the defendant calling on the defendant to reverse its decision and to allow the plaintiff to participate in the Poznan Regatta and threatening to bring an application for injunctive relief if the defendant did not do so by 5pm on the 23 rd May, 2008 . At that stage, the plaintiff's solicitors were under the impression that the deadline for entry to the Poznan Regatta was the 2 nd June, 2008 . The response of the defendant was that the "legal approach" being proposed was inappropriate and that the interests of both parties would be better served by using the services of an arbitrator to rule on the issue. The defendant suggested that the matter be referred to Just Sport Ireland, a body established by the Federation of Irish Sport for dispute resolution. The plaintiff's solicitor's response was that they did not consider it feasible to establish an arbitration hearing and resolve the matter within the time available.

The course of the proceedings
12

These proceedings were initiated on the 26 th May, 2008 by the issue of a plenary summons and on that day the plaintiff was...

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