Moloney v Bolger

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeHerbert J.
Judgment Date06 September 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] IEHC 63
CourtHigh Court
Date06 September 2000

[2000] IEHC 63

THE HIGH COURT

No. 7356P/2000
MOLONEY & ORS v. BOLGER & ORS (IRISH RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION)
TOM MOLONEY, PATRICK J. LYNAM, IVAN DUNNE, PAUL WRAFTER, BERNIE MANN, BART DOHERTY, STEPHEN O'CONNOR, BILLY FRIDAY, MARTIN CARBERRY AND CIARAN LYNCH
PLAINTIFFS

AND

PJ BOLGER, MH CARROLL AND R.C.K. MILLS AS TRUSTEES OF THE LEINSTER BRANCH OF THE IRISH RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION
DEFENDANTS

Citations:

BOLGER V OSBORNE 2000 1 ILRM 250

HAUGHEY, IN RE 1971 IR 217

GLOVER V BLN LTD 1973 IR 388

FLANAGAN V UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD) 1988 IR 724

RYAN V VIP TAXI CO-OPERATIVE (IRISH TIMES 10.4.1989)

BEIRNE V COMMISSIONER OF AN GARDA SIOCHANA 1992 ILRM 699, 1993 ILRM 1

CORRIGAN V IRISH LAND COMMISSION 1977 IR 317

HALSBURYS LAWS OF ENGLAND 4ED V24 PARAS 848, 852, 861 & 862

KEANE EQUITY & LAW OF TRUSTS IN IRELAND PARA 15.33

BOYLE V AN POST 1992 2 IR 437

BOYHAN V TRIBUNAL OF ENQUIRY INTO THE BEEF INDUSTRY 1992 ILRM 454

O'DEA V O'BRIAIN 1992 ILRM 364

NOLAN TRANSPORT (OAKLANDS) LTD V HALLIGAN UNREP KEANE 22.3.1994 1994/5/1550

Abstract:

Administrative law - Sporting bodies - Fair procedures - Irish Rugby Football Union - Decision of Competitions Committee - Application for mandatory injunction - Whether proper procedures followed by committee in reaching decision.

The plaintiff initiated proceedings arising out of a decision by the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union to relegate Tullamore Rugby Football Club (“Tullamore”) from Division One of the Leinster League. The decision arose in part from complaints made by Ashbourne Rugby Football Club (“Ashbourne”) regarding their purported relegation from the same division ahead of Tullamore. Ashbourne had objected to the fact that Tullamore had failed to complete all their fixtures. In addition an objection regarding the same issue was lodged by Railway Union Football Club. The relevant committee of the Leinster Branch met and held that Tullamore had breached competition regulations, would be deducted points and consequently would be relegated from Division One in place of Ashbourne. The plaintiffs as representatives of Tullamore sought to challenge the decision. Herbert J held that although there was a bona fide issue between the parties, the plaintiffs had failed to establish a case which would warrant the granting of the relief sought at this interlocutory hearing.

1

Herbert J. delivered the 6th day of September, 2000.

2

By A Notice of Motion dated the 28th day of June 2000 the Plaintiffs seek the following reliefs pending the determination of the proceedings in this action, namely:-

3

1. An Order restraining the Defendants from taking any or any further steps on foot of the decision of the Appeals Committee of the Executive Council of the Leinster Branch of the IRFU notified to the Plaintiffs by letter dated the 16th day of February 2000.

4

2. An Order restraining the Defendants from relegating Tullamore Rugby Football Club from Division One to Division Two of the ACC Bank Leinster League.

5

3. An Order restraining the Defendants from publishing the Leinster Rugby Official Handbook for the 2000/2001 Season.

6

4. An Order restraining the Defendants from taking any other steps or making any other preparations for the organisation or administration of the ACC Bank Leinster League for the 2000/2001Season.

7

5. A mandatory Order requiring the Defendants to re-hold the draw for Division One of the ACC Bank Leinster League for the 2000/2001 Season on the basis of Tullamore Rugby Football Club remaining in Division One.

8

I shall first deal with the Plaintiff's claim for mandatory relief. The matter at issue in these proceedings is stated on Affidavit by Mr. J. Boyle Honorary Secretary of the Junior Section of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union to have been referred by him to the Leinster Branch Junior Committee pursuant to regulation 4.1.1 of the Leinster Branch Competition Regulations governing protests, objections and appeals, (hereinafter referred to as "the regulations"). It is further stated by Mr. Boyle on Affidavit that at its meeting on the 17th day of January 2000 the Junior Committee decided pursuant to regulation 4.1.3 of the regulations to refer the matter to the Competitions Committee. Regulation 4.1.5 requires the Competitions Committee to hold a full hearing. It is agreed by both sides in this dispute that this was done on the 20th day of January 2000. To comply with regulation 4.1.6, by letter dated the 21st day of January 2000 Mr. Boyle wrote as follows to Mr. Aidan O'Beirne, Honorary Secretary Tullamore Rugby Football Club setting out the decision of the Competitions Committee:-

"Re: Objection received from Ashbourne dated 17th January 2000"

9

I refer to previous correspondence and to the above objection received from Ashbourne RFC. The Competitions Committee considered the matter at its meeting on the 20th January 2000 and decided as follows:-

10

1. Tullamore Rugby Football Club in failing to fulfil the fixture V's Enniscorthy 19th December 1999, is in breach of the competition regulations.

11

2. Arising from the above, (A) two league points are deducted from Tullamore leaving a total of 13 points and, (B) a fine of £200 is imposed.

12

3. Regarding the Enniscorthy V's Tullamore fixture, Enniscorthy have been awarded the points for the match which is not to be replayed.

13

4. Consequently and in accordance with the regulations the team is relegated from Div 1 of the Leinster League in the Season 1999/2000 and Mallingar, Tullamore and Railway Union.

14

The Ashbourne Rugby Football Club objection is dated the 17th day of January 2000, and from its face appears to have been sent to Mr. Boyle by electronic transmission on the same day. The writer Mr. Bill Duggan the Honorary Secretary Ashbourne Rugby Football Club states inter alia as follows: "Reference: ACC Division 1 relegation issue-objection.

"Dear Joe, further to our conversation last night and other conversations over the last two weeks. I wish to register an objection to Ashbourne RFC being relegated based on how the table stands following the games played yesterday in the final day of the League. As it stands Ashbourne are deemed relegated ahead of Tullamore RFC, due to an inferior point's difference even when you take away the points accumulated during our game against Enniscorthy. This is based on the fact that you have informed us that Enniscorthy were awarded the points for their Tullamore game. The League is now complete."

15

Ashbourne's objection is based on the non fulfilment of Tullamore RFC of their rearranged fixture with Enniscorthy on the 19th of December 1999, and their inability to field a team on that day. This decision has had a major impact on the outcome of the League this season and sets a major precedent for coming seasons. Ashbourne believes that under the rules of the League Tullamore were obliged to complete all fixtures within the time frame of the League. They have not done this and as the League is now complete Ashbourne should not be penalised for Tullamore's disregard for the integrity of the competition.

16

Ashbourne RFC has had a horrendous season with injuries and has struggled to fill sides for the League games. We requested one rearrangement of a fixture, against Portlaoise (with their agreement), during the season which was refused but we got on and completed the fixture.....

17

The view of the Executive Committee of Ashbourne is that Tullamore have acted in a manner which brings the League into disrepute. They had in affect taken liberties which go against the spirit of fair play that is central to rugby, and also I believe this is a central principle of the Leinster Branch. It also sets a dangerous precedence for the future integrity of the League. It should also be noted that Ashbourne had defeated Tullamore in the League as had yesterdays opponents Railway Union.

18

As always Joe, I am, on behalf of Ashbourne, always available to discuss this matter with you. I do believe that the spirit of fair play and that the correct decision will be made. Yours sincerely."

19

The objection of Railway Union Rugby Football Club is dated the 18th of January 2000 and is addressed by Mr. James V. Carr, Honorary Fixtures Secretary (and as may be seen from a subsequent objection made on the 19th of January 2000), Acting Honorary Secretary of Railway Union Rugby Football Club, to Mr. Boyle and is as follows:-

"Re: Enniscorthy V's Tullamore non-fixture ACC Leinster League Division 1 Dear Joe, I refer to our various correspondence and conversations over the past fortnight or so regarding the above. In particular I refer to our reference in my letter of 12th January regarding playing our final League game in this most prestigious league "under protest" as it left Railway Union and indeed Ashbourne in the most invidious of positions prior to this fixture.

My club has requested an invitation to be represented at the meeting of the Competitions Committee of the Leinster Branch of the IRFU on Thursday next in order to put forward our position for being placed in Division 1 of the ACC League next season. We feel that our players and coaches were placed in an impossible position prior to their final fixture in the absence of a decision on the penalty being imposed on Tullamore for their concession of a walkover to Enniscorthy.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Yours sincerely"

It is clear that both these clubs were contending that a penalty over and above the points conceded to Enniscorty should be imposed on Tullamore Rugby Football Club because of that clubs failure to play its rearranged match against Enniscorthy Rugby Football Club at Enniscorthy on the 19th of December 1999.

Having regard to the terms of the letter of the 21st of January 2000 from Mr. Boyle to Mr....

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