Stretford v The Football Association Ltd & Another
Reference:  EWHC 479 (Ch)
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Sir Andrew Morritt C
Date of judgment: 17 Mar 2006
Summary: Sport - players' agent - incorporation of arbitration clause into contract between players' agent and Football Association - waiver of right under Art 6 ECHR to court hearing - stay of court proceedings
The FA instituted disciplinary proceedings against S, the holder of a FA players’ agent licence. It was a term of that licence that S observe the FA’s Rules. Rule K contains an arbitration clause whereby participants in football agree to submit their disputes to arbitration. Faced by disciplinary proceedings S threatened to issue a court claim seeking a declaration that the disciplinary commission appointed by the FA would not comply with Art 6 ECHR. At a directions meeting, the FA agreed that if S issued such a claim, it would defer the disciplinary proceedings against him. S issued the claim. The FA applied for a stay of the claim on the grounds that Rule K required the issue raised by S to be submitted to arbitration.
Whether Rule K had been incorporated into the agreement between S and the FA; whether the FA was precluded from relying on Rule K as to do so would be inconsistent with what the FA represented / agreed at the directions meeting; whether Rule K was void for the purposes of the Arbitration Act 1996 because it did not comply with Art 6 ECHR; whether S’s claim ought to be stayed
(1) Rule K had been incorporated into the agreement between S and the FA. If S had not known of the terms of Rule K he could and should have done and, as an agent’s licence holder, was under a duty to keep himself informed of the FA’s Rules.
(2) Nothing that was said or agreed at the directions meeting precluded reliance by the FA on Rule K.
(3) The incorporation of Rule K into the agreement between S and the FA implied a waiver by S of his rights under Art 6 in favour of the arbitral process for which Rule K provided. The fact that S had waived his right to go to court did not necessarily mean he had waived his right to a public judgment. Even if Rule K had not complied with Art 6 that would not be a reason for invalidating the whole arbitration. Rule K was therefore not void or inoperable within s.9, Arbitration Act 1996.
Another sporting attempt to subject a sport regulatory body’s disciplinary processes to High Court scrutiny bites the dust.