A recent selection dispute which made its way to the New Zealand
Sports Tribunal has highlighted the need for sports bodies,
athletes, and the members of sports bodies to pay careful attention
to selection criteria and procedures within their operative
Zac Quickenden and Darryl Fitzgerald are elite kayakers within
Canoe Racing New Zealand ("Canoe NZ"). They formed a pair
in the Men K2 1000 division. They both competed in their
'Nationals' in the hope to be selected by their sport's
national governing body for the Sprint World Cup series regatta to
be held later in the year. However, no world class times were
recorded at Nationals, and Canoe NZ's selection panel did not
select Mr Quickenden and instead selected Zac Franich to partner Mr
Mr Quickenden appealed Canoe NZ's decision not to select him
to the New Zealand Sports Tribunal ("the NZST").
On discovering his rowing partner had not been selected, Mr
Fitzgerald was not prepared to commit to the selection, training
and coaching management that Canoe NZ required in preparation for
the World Champs, until Mr Quickenden's appeal had been heard.
Canoe NZ gave Mr Fitzgerald a deadline to commit to the training
plan but Mr Fitzgerald refused to commit within the timeframe.
Ultimately, Canoe NZ made the decision that with one half of the K2
1000 pair unable to commit, they would have to scrap the boat and
not send a Men's K2 1000 team to the World Champs. This is what
they did. Mr Fitzgerald then appealed this decision to the
The NZST reviewed the two appeals separately. In Mr
Fitzgerald's case, the NZST agreed with Canoe NZ. They found no
evidence of actual bias, or a lack of opportunity for Mr Fitzgerald
to satisfy the selection requirements, or that Canoe NZ hadn't
followed their own selection policy. The NZST determined that Canoe
NZ was operating within their selection policy when scrapping a
boat because of one of the canoeist's persistent unwillingness
to commit to Canoe NZ's specific requirements for that
For Mr Quickenden, Canoe NZ argued that his appeal was made
outside Canoe NZ's 48 hour timeframe for appeals to the NZST.
Unfortunately for Mr Quickenden, the NZST accepted Canoe NZ's
argument. This meant the NZST could not assess the merits of his
non-selection and had to uphold Canoe NZ's decision. The
Tribunal noted, however, that "it was a sad day for
sport" when such strict procedural requirements prevented an
athlete from being able to challenge his non-selection. This serves
as a timely reminder that strict procedures and protocols within
sporting bodies' rules and regulations must be observed even if
failure to adhere may objectively create an injustice.
This point is hammered home following NZST's most recent
decision involving another Canoe NZ selection dispute. Canoe NZ had
decided not to select Andrew Roy for the Under 23 K1 200 Event at
the World Champs. However, on appeal, the NZST overturned this
decision saying that Canoe NZ's application of the selection
criteria on that particular occasion was "too undisciplined
and casual to be regarded as (a) reliable" basis on which not
to select Mr Roy. The NZST ordered that Mr Roy be selected for the
next World Champs. Given the similarity between Mr Quickenden's
and Mr Roy's dispute, had Mr Quickenden lodged his appeal on
time he may too have been able to compete at the upcoming World
The key lesson from the NZST decisions is the fundamental
importance to adhere to the sport's bodies' rules and
requirements, whether you are the sports' body decision makers
or the athletes. The NZST will not likely overlook procedural
requirements in favour of what may be, objectively, a fairer
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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