The majority of legal disputes involving football players, agents and clubs are currently played out in private under the Football Association’s Rule K Arbitration procedure. Under this regime, the existence and outcome of cases will often only be known to the parties themselves.
Whilst many operating in the football world understandably value confidentiality, the secrecy of the proceedings can potentially shield wrongdoing from those not directly involved. This can impact innocent parties (particularly younger players and less experienced agents) who unknowingly deal with individuals who have a hidden history of misconduct and litigation.
Recently, concerns have also been raised about misleading documents being submitted and used in Rule K Arbitrations. This has led to former FA Chairman, David Bernstein, calling for greater transparency and an independent body to oversee legal disputes in football.
It remains to be seen whether the calls for more transparent proceedings will lead to any material changes in the near future. Changes towards a more open system would represent a significant departure from the current regime.
A former FA chairman has called for legal disputes in football to be overseen by an independent body after a police investigation uncovered evidence suggesting that misleading documents had been used in arbitrations. David Bernstein said football arbitrations and other hearings held in private should be more transparent and have independent oversight. “Absolutely, this in an area that, in principle, should be overseen by an independent regulator,” he told The Times. “It’s a big issue. “You would expect a regulator to look into these kind of disputes, bring a very high level of independence to the process and ensure there were no decisions being taken by vested interests.”