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National sporting bodies on Thursday were urged to keep their disputes out of the courtroom at the inaugural Sports Disputes Resolution seminar hosted by the Ministry of Sport and held at Radisson Hotel, Port of Spain.

Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith challenged all National Governing Bodies (NGB’s) to also refrain from corruption with the theme for the day entitled “Staying in your lane”.

Presenters all lamented that local sport has been in the news for the wrong reasons as allegations of corruption have flooded the media in recent times.

At the seminar, Smith questioned why is there so much disagreements among the NGB’s.

Smith stated, “What is at stake that at the governing bodies we have to be bickering. I watch carefully those who constantly bicker and cause bacchanalia in sport. They seeing something that we not seeing, they seeing a stake to cause this bacchanal, to argue, to fight, to bring a sport into disrepute, to be making headlines, to select somebody that should not be selected, to cheat, to dope up, to thief. What is the reason? We have to start to look at that.” Smith explained what he believes is causing arguing in the local sporting fraternity. “I think the two main reasons are selfishness and immaturity. People are selfish. Nobody in here could win no world record. Nobody in here could score a hat-trick again, so the only other thing is money, or to get a friend on board, or get a family member on board.” Smith said his team is trying to get rid of the corruption in the Ministry of Sport and challenged the NGB’s to follow his lead. He said, “I would like for TT to go through one year and I could stand up at the budget and proudly say, ‘Look no thieving at the NGBs, no thieving in the Ministry, nobody cheating to get a family member in or a friend in, no doping. You think this year we could do that guys?’” Many attorneys were present at the seminar and they encouraged sporting administrators and athletes to stay away from the court when trying to resolve a dispute.

The facilitator of the seminar Tyrone Marcus, who is the senior legal officer at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, spoke about the countries that have Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies.

Marcus stated, “the goal of ADR is to resolve the disputes outside of court in a manner that is quick and cost effective.” Marcus said that countries such as Ireland, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Switzerland have ADR bodies and this is something TT can follow. Other than setting up an ADR body, the NGBs were encouraged to go through the process of arbitration or mediation before going to the courts.

Anthony Vieira, mediator and attorney, stated that sporting bodies need to resolve problems because of their experience in sporting matters. Vieira said, “traditionally the courts don’t intervene in sporting disputes especially when they concern the rules of the game and the application of game rules, there is a long established tradition in fact that the courts would not intervene.

They prefer that matters of this nature are actually dealt with by the sports bodies themselves especially where the sports bodies would have the knowledge and experience and they are better suited to determine selection process for example.” Justice Vasheist Kokeram encouraged sport administrators to embrace conflict and learn from it.

He stated, “conflict is unavoidable especially in sport. My message to you is to embrace conflict, learn from the conflict and to change by accepting that we all have different perspectives and we all bring with ourselves different ideas of how things should operate.”

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