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Aljaz Bedene: arbitrator examines ITF rule that tennis players can only represent one country

06/03/17

In a decision of 27 February 2017, Charles Hollander QC sitting as sole arbitrator, dismissed the challenge brought by Aljaz Bedene and the Lawn Tennis Association against a decision of the International Tennis Federation refusing to allow Mr Bedene to represent Great Britain in the Davis Cup.  The ITF took its decision pursuant to a revised rule which precludes players from representing more than one country subject to the possibility of exemption (which the ITF had refused to grant).

The challenge was brought on EU law free movement grounds; the applicants argued that the rule was disproportionate because it did not contain transitional provisions and that the failure of the ITF to grant an exemption was also disproportionate.

The arbitrator considered the decision of the European court in Meca-Medina and held that the rule did fall within the scope of EU law (and not within the sporting exception established by the European Court in Dona v Mantero) but that the principle of proportionality did not require transitional provisions because the rule admitted the possibility of exemptions being granted.  The arbitrator held further that the ITF had material before it on which it was reasonable for it to refuse to grant an exemption and its decision was therefore lawful.

The decision appears on the Sports Resolutions website here.

Charles Hollander QC was sole arbitrator. Marie Demetriou QC, instructed by Mishcon de Reya, represented the ITF.