Taking sports laws into your own hands

If you’re reading this column there’s a good chance you’re a member of a sports club. If so, you may be familiar with a phenomenon best encapsulated by the experience of a man I know in a government organisation.

Taking sports laws into your own hands

“Kid,” he likes to say, “When the meeting goes on a tad too long I find you can wrap it up in seconds with one question: Who has the duty of care in this situation? Always clears the room.”

Matters of responsibility and accountability are serious considerations in every organisation now.

The trouble with a sports club is a handful of people may be charged with serious legal obligations, and sometimes — as volunteers, which most of them are — they may not have the training to deal with such obligations.

Hence my interest in the Law Society of Ireland’s latest MOOC (massive open online course): Sports law — the challenges on and off the field of play.

I spoke to Freda Grealy, head of the Law Society’s Diploma Centre, about the course:

“There are so many sports clubs in the country, obviously, there seemed to be a growing interest among the public in law generally, so... one of our interests in the Law Society is in reaching out to the public and educating them. You’re always looking for a topic that will connect.

This course is an easy endeavour for anyone who wants to dip in and look. It’s short videos of 10-15 minutes — an interview, a panel discussion, live question-and-answers on a Friday — and you collect your badges.

“It’s a nice way to engage the learner, whether they’re solicitors or not. There are about 1,850 signed up already.”

It’s an interesting syllabus. Week one deals with the context, administration, and challenges, and the following week focuses on the club: Child protection, liability, data protection, and so on.

The third week looks at sports as a business in all its forms and the fourth examines challenges facing sports — corruption, concussion, anti-doping. The final week is about keeping sport out of the courts, on and off the field of play.

“Now, we have caveats in terms of what people need to do,” said Grealy. “With a serious legal issue they need to speak to a solicitor, obviously.

“But this is about accessing information and giving people skills. So many people’s impression of the law is that it’s turgid and difficult to negotiate.

It’s also about educating people, maybe nudging them to go on further. A person in a club may take in the course and say to themselves after, ‘maybe we need to update the child protection policy we have in the club’, or maybe there are other housekeeping matters that need to be addressed.

“You have the challenge of GDPR coming down the line at the moment, and those kinds of issues come up on a regular basis. So this kind of edu-tainment approach at least puts people into the space where they’re thinking about those challenges.”

Grealy says there’s a pathway for people who want to do a “deeper dive” into further qualifications. “It starts tomorrow but if people want to join in later this week that’s fine, people regularly join after the starting date.”

There are some impressive teachers on the course: Cliodhna Guy, head of legal for the Irish Horseracing Board; Yvonne Nolan, legal counsel, World Rugby; Clare Daly of Ronan Daly Jermyn; and someone well known to readers of this newspaper, Jack Anderson, whose column on sports law is essential reading every week.

Busy as I am — as you all are — I think it might be necessary. Otherwise nobody will know who has the duty of care in a situation. Hey, where did everyone go?


I still don’t believe there’s a band called Horse Meat Disco, despite a friend’s impassioned pleas about their existence (sorry, Jim). I mention them because at the other end of the

credibility spectrum, Ed Sheeran filled Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and your columnist was there Friday evening.

There was a time, around the Jurassic Era, when it was a matter of seriously considering departure as soon as the niche act on the undercard finished their set; when a recognisable tune made you shake your head; and when an appearance on a mainstream TV show condemned your latest discovery to the outer darkness — in your mind, anyway.

Move over Horse Meat Disco, Mister Ed’s in town

For ‘you’ read ‘me’, obviously, but thankfully The Smiths happened around then, allowing us all to relax.

For the modern music-snob: your day will come.

Anyway, Ed served up a great show Friday, a) identifying a lot of male reticence about attending and b) wearing a Cork GAA jersey. He was by no means the worst to wear a number two jersey in that corner of the ground, either.

Ed Sheeran plays Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Ed Sheeran plays Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

The red-headed one did a lot more. Over the weekend he established Páirc Uí Chaoimh as a credible venue for international- calibre music acts at a stroke. He seriously boosted the coffers of the Cork County Board/Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

He gave the city and environs a welcome shot of adrenaline, though I’m not sure he can take credit for the sunshine.

Credit is due to all concerned, though, in managing the events so smoothly. They and Ed deserve kudos as well for giving thousands of kids a safe and enjoyable introduction to

the monster gig.

To use an old Thomas Kinsella line, the late finish meant some were flagging by 11pm and sheltered their nine years against parents’ buttons, but the experience was positive. Well done.

I’m not saying Horse Meat Disco couldn’t do that, mind. I just need to know if they’re real.

Aerial view of Pairc Ui Chaoimh during the show.
Aerial view of Pairc Ui Chaoimh during the show.

Kinsella, the maestro, 90 years young

I mentioned Thomas Kinsella above: he was 90 over the weekend.

A lot of you will probably remember him from your days grappling with that great old war - horse, the Soundings poetry book.

I dropped a line from Kinsella into a match overview one day and was surprised by the number of people who picked it out. Then again, ‘locked fast inside a dream with iron gates’ is a line too good to forget. A very happy birthday, maestro.

Kiprop must be kidding us with crazy drug antics

From the Department of You Must Be Kidding Me - the case of Kenyan 1500m runner Asbel Kiprop, who had EPO detected in a drug test last November.

Those who caught him? The Athlete Integrity Unit of the IAAF, the international athletics body.

An AIU statement last week admitted: “ . . . that the doping control assistant involved in

testing Mr Kiprop on 27 November 2017 [who is known to Mr Kiprop] admitted that he

provided Mr Kiprop with advanced notice of the testing that was to take place on that

date. This is extremely disappointing.”

If testers are tipping off athletes I’d be more inclined to say we’re in the Upside Down, to use the Stranger Things term, rather than extremely disappointed.

As for Asbel Kiprop, if he can’t pass tests when told about them in advance, then what kind of drug cheats do we have nowadays? They’re nothing on their great predecessors, certainly.

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