May 3, 2006

Legal Football

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by thelawthoughts

The whole football siren brouhaha has been very interesting over the last few days. Now that the laws of the game have been overridden, I am very interested to hear what people think. My opinion is that the game should have been awarded to Fremantle, but I can’t reconcile this with the laws of the game.

Basically, the game ends when the umpire says it does. The laws of the game don’t say anything about what happens if the AFL employs a stupid timekeeper, who can’t observe his duties. Incidentally, it is also a rule that the timekeeper must continually sound the siren until the umpires hear it.

In the wash up, and from a strictly legal perspective, I find it incredibly funny that the respective clubs are considering their legal options. I think there are legal options, for what it’s worth, but I don’t think the Supreme Court will bother examining them. However, I don’t think this will give people the message that the result of a football game IS NOT IMPORTANT, no matter how much the presiding judge wishes to do so.

In effect, the losers can point to the rules, which say the game ends when the umpire says, and argue that the rules of the game were arbitrarily overridden. For what it’s worth, I think this is an entirely valid argument. However, the argument in favour of the winner, which has been bandied about as a ‘natural justice’ argument, is far more interesting from a legal perspective.

If the result stood, people could argue that the decision was unreasonable, that natural justice was not done. My response would be, ‘so what?’. In effect, the decision is not reviewable for administrative error. Some administrative decisions can be reviewed, but usually only when the legislation giving the power to make the decision also gives the power to have the decision reviewed. As far as I know, nobody has ever seen football results as important enough to make them a ‘reviewable decision’ for the purposes of a natural justice type argument. No legislation says ‘the AFL commission can make decisions about results of football games and this is a reviewable decision’ (qualified lawyers, please forgive my crucifixion of legislative form).

Basically, therefore, Fremantle went to the AFL and argued ‘it’s just not fair, people’. It must be the first time in the history of the world that barristers (who I think represented both clubs) have made that argument and actually won.

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