The Independence of Sports Law

I feel the need to divert slightly from the usual analysis of the current sports law developments and concentrate on a personal issue. This is the first and the last time that I am touching upon such issue and it is important for all football fans to keep an open mind when they read the lines below. It is not my intention to offend anyone, but the truth must be spoken, whether some like it or not. It is also important to protect my name and my reputation from unjustified and offensive comments, who come as a result of fanatical and  without compelling justification views. 

The majority of you must have seen my interview with Newsnight Scotland on 29 May 2012. []. I was invited by the BBC to offer my personal interpretation and my expert opinion on the regulatory framework and the possible developments regarding the outcome of the Rangers' Application before the Court of Session  in Scotland. The main reason of this invitation was the fact that I have the knowledge and the experience from my involvement in similar cases, particularly, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as well as FIFA's Players and Status Committee and FIFA's Disciplinary Chamber. I also offered advice to Celtic in the FC Sion matter, so I could appreciate well enough what the similarities are with the Rangers matter.

Following this interview, I received several abusive comments, mainly from people who declared an affiliation with Rangers FC. One of them [the police are now tracing him], even called my office in the UK, several times and amongst several other irrelevancies he suggested that Rangers 'are out to get me.' I find such approach distasteful and cheap and whoever the person is, his actions only help to damage the club he supports. Freedom of speech is an important right that needs to be safeguarded, but threats against a person give rise to a serious criminal offence and they will be dealt with accordingly.

This brings me to the next point which relates to the ability of a lawyer to offer independent advice and assist with the development of the law at any given time. When the lawyer has an expertise in a particular area of law, such opinion only helps to inform practice further and it also helps towards the identification of possible solutions. For those who kept an open mind, free of opinions who are based on a misconceived fanatical affiliation with a club for reasons other than football, must have realised that my interview with the BBC was independent and presented in layman's terms, so it could be understood by all viewers. 

Unfortunately, some people, led by fanaticism mostly, misinterpreted the substance of my interview and sadly enough, the actual reasons for such interview. They have suggested that my publicly declared affection for Celtic and my advisory role for one of Celtic's players, meant that my interview was not independent. I have also heard other untrue comments as to why the BBC looked for a 'Greek' lawyer to comment on the Rangers' matter. Needless to point out that I am not a 'Greek' lawyer, as my studies and qualifications have taken place in the UK, where I lived most of my life. Most importantly, the BBC invited me because I am in a position to appreciate the decision making regarding sanctions in this situation and how such possible sanctions could affect Scottish football. My interview was not about Rangers or Celtic, but about the dangers for Scottish football, as a result of the civil action before the Court of Session. 

It is sad that I have to produce these explanations and place myself in a position where I have to justify my position in the world of Sports Law. Above all, it is also sad when people refuse to accept reality. In my previous posts, I explained, with constructive criticism, what the dangers for Scottish football are. In most of my posts, I have maintained an objective and independent view and, under the circumstances, most of my opinions could be characterised rather favourable to Rangers. Those who could appreciate the development of Sports Law could also identify, in my writing, the view that the demise of Rangers, may not be a good thing for Scottish football in the long term. I have never thought that with such statement I would upset the majority of Celtic fans and similarly I had no intention of upsetting any Rangers fans with my interview on Tuesday evening. In the same way and with the same principles, I explained last Tuesday evening what the dangers for Scottish football are, if the SFA does not interpret its regulatory framework purposefully and if it does not apply the appropriate sanctions on the proven allegations. 

I hope that everybody could understand that the analysis of Sports Law does not take into consideration personal affiliations or beliefs. Every prudent and well-trained lawyer would know that the proper advice to the client, could only be based on the correct evaluation of the evidence and the purposeful interpretation of the regulatory framework. A a lawyer I have a duty to advice properly and independently. I have no contractual, or otherwise, relationship with any clubs, nor do I serve the 'interests' of any particular clubs. I have never done it in my life, nor do I intend to do it in the future. Those who need advice, they will have it. This is the most important principle in a lawyer's career and it needs to be safeguarded at all costs. Those who need help shall receive it. This is what makes our job a service and not a profession. 

Finally, it is true that Rangers are in a very difficult predicament. This is documented everywhere and most of the views expressed so far, point towards the actual reasons for such predicament. As a football fan, I can sympathise with those who are going through difficult times. As a lawyer, I have a duty to explain the law to those who need it. I cannot, however, accept personal attacks and threats, simply because I speak the truth. As suggested before, it is not my fault that Rangers are in this situation now. I have not advised Rangers before nor have I brought Rangers into this situation. You all know who the responsible people are, so please direct your wrath at them. My rights to free speech and responsible and purposeful advice are non-negotiable and I will continue to defend such rights.

I will also continue to offer my independent views on all sports law developments. This blog is dedicated to sports law and as long as there is just one reader who enjoys such analysis, I would only be too happy to continue with it. 

Dr. Gregory Ioannidis

31 May 2012


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