The Guardian has an interesting follow-up to yesterday’s story on Elliot Saltman, the European Tour pro found guilty of cheating at a tournament in Russia last year. Apparently, there are fears in certain quarters that the composition of the disciplinary panel (a committee of eight European Tour executives and several ‘senior’ players, Thomas Bjorn and Colin Montgomerie among them) has left its decision open to legal challenge. A brief comment from Marc Goldberg, chairman of the British Association of Sports and Law, makes the potential for difficulty clear:
“Clearly, there could be conflict of interest involved, and the player being punished may have a claim that this is contrary to the rules of natural justice. For example, what if Tiger Woods came before the panel and some of the other players didn’t want to play against him for a while? They would be tempted to ban him for as long as possible.”
While European Tour chief executive George O’Grady seems reasonably confident in the integrity of his organisation’s disciplinary procedures, his perspective may depend on what some commentators are hinting is a rather optimistic interpretation of European employment law.
Saltman himself currently denies any wrongdoing and, according to a brief statement made last night, is considering launching an appeal. While outsiders might question the wisdom of very publicly appealing a decision that still leaves him with playing privileges for nearly eight months of the season, Saltman’s lowly status and the nature of the European Tour’s calendar makes his performance over the next three months crucially important
This could become the very sort of lengthy inquisition the powers that be were anxious to avoid.