Reference:  EWHC 2164 (QB); (2004) SLJR 12; (2004) ISLR, SLR-1
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Richards J
Date of judgment: 1 Oct 2004
Summary: Sports Law - Appeal from Jockey Club Appeal Board - Review of Appeal Board decision to disqualify for breach of rules - whether penalty of disqualification imposed was disproportionate and unlawful - whether Jockey Club was in breach of contract in imposing a disproportionate penalty - whether imposition of the disqualification was an unreasonable restraint of trade - whether new evidence should be adduced at hearing
Download: Download this judgment
Instructing Solicitors: Charles Russell for the Defendant
The Claimant, Graham Bradley, was a successful steeplechase jockey who was charged in June 2002 with a number of breaches of the Rules of Racing alleged to have been committed during his time as a licensed jockey. The Jockey Club Disciplinary Committee found certain of the charges proved and imposed penalties which included disqualification for a period of eight years. Mr Bradley appealed to the Appeal Board which dismissed an appeal on liability but substituted a penalty of five years disqualification. Mr Bradley brought these proceedings in the High Court to challenge the length of the disqualification. In doing so he sought to adduce new evidence.
(1) Whether the Jockey Club was in breach of various implied terms of a contract between the parties by imposing a disproportionate penalty;
(2) Whether the imposition of the disqualification was unlawful at common law on non-contractual grounds.
(3) Whether the Court should consider new evidence when determining either claim.
Dismissing the claim:
(1) The Court’s jurisdiction in such a case is supervisory. Its function is to ensure that the primary decision-making body operates within lawful limits, whether the claim is contractual or non-contractual. The test is akin to that which applies in public law.
(2) There was a contract between the parties, by which the Jockey Club disciplinary bodies were to consider the matters raised, but this did not affect the issues for decision. The implied terms of the contract were consistent with the approach identified above.
(3) For these reasons the new evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible; the relevant evidence was that which was before the Appeal Board. In any event, having heard the evidence, it did not support the case advanced.
(4) The Appeal Board was fully entitled to conclude that a five year disqualification was proportionate. Further, if it had been a primary decision-maker the court would not have imposed any lesser ban.
Graham Bradley’s second career, as a bloodstock agent, appears to be at an end as a result of evidence he volunteered to a crown court in defending a former colleague, that he and his colleague had regularly passed inside information to a gambling syndicate for reward. Was it lawful for the Appeal Board of the regulatory system, on this basis, to ban him from racing for 5 years? Older authorities clearly established a wide margin of appreciation for sporting bodies in disciplinary decisions, giving the courts an important, but nonetheless supervisory role. This decision firmly rejects an attempt to argue that in modern conditions the court should assume the role of primary decision-maker, and second-guess the regulator. The judge would have made the same decision as the Appeal Board, but he held that this was not the issue. The question was whether the Appeal Board reached an untenable conclusion. The approach for the court is broadly the same as that which applies in public law.