Selectors: Avoiding successful challenges to selection decisions

May 10, 2018

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There are ways to minimise the likelihood of selection disputes arising.

These include:

  • Having a clear written policy setting out the process and criteria;
  • Making sure all athletes are aware of selection process and criteria;
  • Following and apply selection criteria;
  • Not applying inappropriate criteria;
  • Being transparent;
  • Being consistent; and
  • Acting in good faith and without bias.

The above considerations aim at achieving a smooth process of selection, however, in reality, selection disputes will always arise.  Athletes often make many sacrifices and work extremely hard to be selected.  In the case of Olympic athletes, they only have the opportunity to be selected to compete at the Olympics once every four years.  If they are not selected during this small space of time they may feel unfairly excluded regardless of whether or not the relevant selection criteria were complied with.  Often athletes feel they have nothing to lose in challenging non-selection and therefore pursue an appeal against their non-selection.

It is important for you, as selectors, to know if and when such challenges are likely to be successful, given that selection appeals are becoming more frequent.

If an athlete can prove that a selector has made a decision based on bias or has not acted fairly, an appeal against the decision has relatively high prospects of success.  However, if we assume for the purposes of this article that a selector is not acting in bad faith and that natural justice has been afforded, the following case illustrates that no matter what decision is made by a selector, it is unlikely to be overturned on appeal if the selector properly applied relevant policies and considered the correct criteria.

The decision of Mewing v Swimming Australia Limited (CAS 2008/A/1540) states that:

“being entitled to consideration for nomination and being eligible for nomination is not the same as having a right to nomination.  In selection disputes, in the absence of bad faith, dishonesty or perversity, the CAS has consistently considered that an appeal against a selection decision cannot succeed when……the relevant decision maker, has properly following and implemented the Nomination Criteria and has given proper, genuine and realistic consideration to the overall needs of the team.”

In Mewing v Swimming Australia Limited, Andrew Mewing was not selected for the Australian men’s 4 x 200 relay team for the Beijing Olympics 2008 despite satisfying the eligibility criteria.  There were no grounds for disqualifying him.  Further, additional places in the team were also available and his selection wold not have displaced another swimmer.  Mewing appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).