The Jess Varnish case against British Cycling could be just as ‘disruptive’ as Bosman’s statement, the hearing heard
Jess Varnish’s case against British Cycling could have the same “disruptive effect” on Olympic sports as the Bosman ruling on football, her hearing said today.
Varnish (29) tries to prove that she should have been considered an employee or worker by the management body.
That would allow the former British rider to bring suit for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination, allegations discovered by Sports email after being dropped for the 2016 Olympics.
Track cyclist Jess Varnish awaits the outcome of her two-day hearing in her case against British Cycling, which ended on Wednesday
Varnish lost her original employment court in January 2019, and the judge ruled that the funding she received was more like a university granting a student a grant to use their services.
But she won the right to appeal, and her two-day hearing – which was held over a Skype judge before two lay members – ended Wednesday morning, with a verdict not expected for at least four weeks.
In Wednesday’s proceedings, the court heard that Varnish’s case and its potential implications for elite athletes’ labor rights were similar to the 1995 lawsuit by Jean-Marc Bosman, which paved the way for footballers to be free agents after their contract .
Layman Peter Hunter, who is assisting the judge, spoke to the opposing lawyers and said, “I am a football fan and I am surprised that neither of you mentioned Bosman. I think it had a terrible effect on football.
“It has had a very disruptive effect on football and you can see the possible disruption (of this), but it is not relevant. Bosman was legally right and the question here is what is legally correct. ‘
Varnish tries to prove that she should have been considered an employee of British Cycling
There are three possible outcomes of Varnish’s appeal: the original decision is upheld, the original decision is overturned, or it is decided that a second tribunal should be held.
Concluding the distance hearing, Mr. Justice Choudhury said, “We will reserve our judgment on this. There are a number of things that should be carefully considered and we would like to take some time. ‘
In the past two days, Varnish’s lawyer, David Reade, QC, has put forward four grounds for the appeal. The first, and most significant, was that the original tribunal “erred in law in holding that Ms. Varnish and British Cycling were not mutually obligated.”
Reade said, “The Tribunal does not fundamentally recognize that in this particular contract there was an obligation for Ms Varnish to provide a minimum or reasonable amount of work, and that the work was actually for British Cycling’s benefit or direction.”
Reade cited historical cases in which professional footballers turned out to be employees. But Jason Galbraith-Marten, QC, British Cycling representative said, “This is not about hiring someone to play for your team, but supporting someone to fight for her country at the national and international levels.
Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman went to court in 1995 to challenge the transfer rules
“It is fundamentally different. We say that in this example British Cycling is much more like the football association than the Newcastle United football club. ‘
Galbraith-Marten said that British Cycling provided Varnish with “skills, training and coaching” not so that she could compete for them, but “so that she could compete for Britain at the Olympics.”
The university analogy cited as “most useful” in the original tribunal verdict was also challenged by Reade and Hunter.
Reade said that while Varnish had an ‘obligation to train and compete’ and to wear certain clothing under her contract with British Cycling, a student would not be required to attend lectures or ‘display the university logo around campus. to wear’.
Hunter also said the student equation “did not resonate” with him. He added, “I think that such an advantage that students at a university would bring would be less than the benefit that the prestige of the British Cycling team would bring.”
Galbraith-Marten argued that ‘student performance can benefit universities’ in terms of rankings and future funding.
Varnish was removed from British track cycling for the 2016 Olympic Games
Galbraith-Marten also wondered why Varnish did not file a claim of discrimination under the Equality Act instead of filing a labor court.
At this point, a Varnish representative said Sports email: ‘When British Cycling confirmed in October 2016 that Jess had displayed inappropriate and discriminatory behavior by their employees, she considered all available options. There were or will remain options within British Cycling to address this situation.
Jess chose the labor court because she believed it was a good reflection of her relationship with British Cycling and the level of control they exercised over her career and everyday life.
“It also provided some level of financial protection to keep her from going bankrupt or being bullied by British Cycling.”
Varnish lost her original employment court in January 2019, but was given the right to appeal
Told British Cycling Sports email they ‘regret’ the working of Varnish.
A spokesman for British Cycling said, “The decision to challenge this case is always based on our belief that the real picture of our relationship with riders representing this country is not one of the employer-employee, but that of an organization that supports talented and dedicated athletes to do their best. This view was supported in law by the decision of the first tribunal.
The hearing was listed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and while there are major challenges for the sport and all other sectors of society at this time, we will continue to represent what we believe are the best interests of each rider currently supported by the high performance system, and anyone hoping to ever participate in any Olympic or Paralympic Games.
“We deeply regret that Jess was advised to follow the path of an employment court when her other paths were available.
“The culture of the Great Britain Cycling Team has changed for the better since Jess first brought up what everyone recognizes as legitimate concerns.”