As Charles Green and Ally McCoist prepare to defend themselves before a Disciplinary Tribunal this Thursday, we look at where the SFA’s new system of justice now stands following the Rangers crisis.
Last summer’s introduction of a new independent disciplinary system, in the form of the Judicial Panel Protocol (JPP), was one of the flagship reforms of the Regan-era SFA. However, despite Stewart Regan’s recent claim that the JPP system is “robust”, the Rangers crisis has exposed some serious flaws:
- an overly-prescriptive approach to the sanctions available for disciplinary breaches;
- uncertainty over whether Tribunal decisions may be appealed to, or reviewed by, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) or in the Scottish Courts;
- concerns over the system’s independence from the SFA, given the key roles of the Compliance Officer and the SFA Secretary, and the fact that the Appellate Tribunal did not reconvene following the Court of Session’s decision in the Rangers case; and
- whether the identities of the Tribunal members can/should be kept confidential.
This article will look at the background to the JPP and summarise how the process works. Forthcoming articles in this series will examine the flaws identified above, and make the case for reforming the JPP in the light of those flaws.
What is the JPP, and how does it work?
The JPP is the independent system of football ‘justice’ under which all breach of SFA rules have been dealt with since it came into effect on 7 June 2011. It replaced the previous, much-maligned, system under which disciplinary matters were dealt with by a (now disbanded) SFA committee. The JPP was intended to introduce some much-needed independence into the disciplinary system, as well as laying down clear procedural rules and clarifying what sanctions could be imposed for breaches of the rules.
This independence was vital to ensure the credibility of the decisions made under the disciplinary system, in the context of increasing tensions within Scottish football (particularly regarding Celtic and Rangers). It was to be achieved by ensuring that disciplinary decisions are made by Tribunals formed from members of a “Judicial Panel” made up of senior members of the legal profession, and those of the ‘great and the good’ of Scottish football world who (crucially) have no formal association with the SFA.
For those who may not be familiar with it, some key points of the JPP process are set out below (the numbers are references to the relevant sections of the JPP):
- the Judicial Panel is established under the SFA’s Articles of Association, and its (volunteer, unpaid) members are appointed by the SFA Board (6.1);
- the SFA must appoint a “Compliance Officer” (currently Vincent Lunny) who has general responsibility for ensuring that all those involved in Scottish Football abide by the SFA’s Disciplinary Rules (“the Rules”) (5.1);
- if the Compliance Officer thinks the Rules have been breached, he starts disciplinary proceedings by issuing a Notice of Complaint to the alleged wrongdoer (9.1);
- the SFA Secretary (currently Stewart Regan), unless he exercises his discretion to decline jurisdiction (1.9), then appoints the members of a Disciplinary Tribunal (“DT”) from the ranks of the Judicial Panel to hear the case (7.2.1);
- the alleged wrongdoer appears to have the right to object to any of the appointments to the DT (10.6), though this isn’t entirely clear;
- subject to appeal, the DT’s decision is final and binding – and the parties must comply with it (10.11);
- a party found by a DT to have breached the Rules has the right to appeal the DT’s decision (12.2) by delivering a Notice of Appeal to the SFA Secretary (126.96.36.199);
- as with the DT, the SFA Secretary appoints the members of an Appellate Tribunal (“AT”) from the ranks of the Judicial Panel to hear any appeal (7.2.1);
- the Appellant must be advised of the identity of the members appointed to the AT and has the right to object to any of those appointments (15.3);
- the AT’s decision “shall be final and binding on the parties and there shall be no further right of appeal” (188.8.131.52);
- the parties to the Tribunal proceedings are required to keep confidential “any information or documentation relating to proceedings” and must “take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised disclosure of such confidential information by any third party involved in proceedings” (17.5.1).
The next article in this series will consider the impact on the JPP of the decision of the Outer House of the Court of Session in the Rangers judicial review case – dealing with appeals, jurisdiction and the availability of sanctions. The third and final article will consider to what extent the JPP system is genuinely independent of the SFA; and the vexed issue of whether the identities of the Tribunal members should be confidential – or whether they should be made public knowledge.