An FA Regulatory Commission, chaired by Lord Dyson, handed down its decision in the case brought against Mr Peter Beardsley, former high-profile England and Newcastle player and coach on 18 September 2019. Mr Beardsley had been charged with misconduct for three aggravated breaches of FA Rule E3 (as defined by E3(1) read with (2)). It was alleged that he had used language, which was abusive and/or insulting on three occasions:
It was further alleged that his conduct brought the game into disrepute contrary to FA Rule E3(1). The Commission upheld all three charges for the reasons provided here. The Panel observed that whilst Mr Beardsley is a “towering figure in football and his footballing reputation is beyond question… he made remarks which were obviously racist and were wholly unacceptable.” After considering various aggravating and mitigating factors, the Panel decided to suspend Mr Beardsley from all football and football related activity for 32 weeks from 18 September 2019 (as well as ordering him to attend a FA education course and to pay the costs of the Regulatory Commission).
The decision also raised an interesting question regarding the interpretation of Regulations 23 and 24 of the FA’s Disciplinary Regulations, which provide that:
The regulations were relevant to the proceedings, because the managing director of the Club (Mr Charnley) had held a disciplinary meeting to consider the allegations. In a reasoned decision, following consideration of oral and written evidence, Mr Charnley found (inter alia) the allegations before the Commission were proved. The Commission determined that, “It is clear on the face of the regulation that the three charges that Mr Beardsley faces in the current proceedings are proved unless he shows by clear and convincing evidence that the result reached by Mr Charnley and his findings are not correct and true.” It was not in dispute that the burden of rebutting the presumption was on Mr Beardsley. There was, however, a disagreement as to the standard of proof, particularly whether it should be the balance of probabilities or a higher standard. Ultimately, the decision did not turn on the standard of proof, but Lord Dyson had ruled, on an earlier date, in favour of Mr Beardsley on that issue:
The Panel further observed that any flaws in the Club’s disciplinary process were insufficient to rebut the presumption in Regulation 24, rather the “findings of the Club are presumed to be correct unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that this is not the case.” This, the Panel concluded, was clearly a reference to evidence that is placed before the FA Commission. The Panel was not hearing an appeal from or conducting a review of the Club’s decision.
This blog has been written by Stephanie David.