Peter Butterfield of this firm was recently instructed to represent a young person at a Football Association (FA) disciplinary hearing in respect of a misconduct allegation. Peter has undertaken other disciplinary hearings relating to allegations of misconduct by professionals.
Peter was instructed through a recommendation and dealt with proceedings commencing by making formal written representations to the FA through, ultimately, to the personal disciplinary hearing.
The case involved a 15 year old girl who has been playing football for ten years and for a number of high profile locals clubs. Ultimately it is her desire to play football at professional level in the Women's game - one of the fastest growing participation sports in this country. In fact, at the time of the disciplinary proceedings she had been accepted for a football scholarship locally to further progress her desired career choice whilst still maintaining her education. This scholarship offer would almost certainly have been withdrawn had there been an adverse finding in her case.
The incident arose out of an innocuous confrontation during a match between Peter's client and a player from the opposing team. The other player used abusive language which Peter's client accepted responding to in similar fashion. However, a more serious allegation was made to the FA that the misconduct was racially aggravated and despite written representations suggesting the contrary the matter proceeded to a full personal hearing.
The FA's disciplinary hearing process is one that can be navigated by individuals but when the stakes are so high and involve detailed and discrete matters it is eminently sensible to consider legal representation.
Peter was able to review the FA's evidence, take detailed instructions from his client and then interview potential witnesses to the incident. The personal hearing is adversarial in nature but, perhaps, less formal than other professional disciplinary adjudications or court proceedings. That being said, the hearing raised complicated evidential issues and the questioning of young witnesses that is prohibited by anybody other than the Chairman of the Commission. That raises the issue of pre-planned questions of the Young person but adapted throughout the hearing and with the formal consent of the Chairman following the giving of evidence by the Young person and other parties.
The hearing concluded with the making of submissions regarding the evidence provided and the suggested findings of the panel. Through hard work, perseverance and expertise Peter was able to persuade the tribunal that the racially aggravated misconduct allegation was not proven. His client had always accepted that she used inappropriate language (in response to the same) and, after mitigation, she was warned as to her future conduct, suspended for just one match and fined £10.
Unsurprisingly, Peter's client, her parents and club were all delighted with the outcome which has allowed her to take up the scholarship offer and we here at Gepp Solicitors look forward to seeing her names in lights in the coming years in the WSL!
Although such legal representation has to be privately funded, we would suggest that there are many occasions where the benefits of such representation far outweigh (as in this case) any potential costs involved.
If you have queries in respect of representation before an FA disciplinary panel or any other regulatory tribunal then please do not hesitate to contact us.
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