“Not Bad Thanks” – Graeme Willingham: extract No. 2, Tribunals!



Extract 2: Tribunals




NBT also had trouble with the games’ rules and regulations.

The message was forthright. “Now, let me make it clear from

the outset. At this tribunal tonight, we have two women

panellists so there’ll be no use of bad language that might

be part of evidence. Serious bad words will be replaced by

the word ‘Major’ and less serious bad words by ‘Minor’.

This applies to everyone addressing this tribunal tonight —

referees, those charged and witnesses. I will not tolerate any

bad language here. Swear words. And you all know what I

mean by serious and not-so-serious bad words.”

So said Mr Alan Ashe, chairman of the VBHBA Tribunal,

in opening a September 1986 hearing into two charges —

Abusive Language and Obscene Language — against an NBT

Player known as Rascal, a lithe 198cm guard, who was alleged

to have insulted a referee courtside after a game that had

drifted into a state of incontinence.


Mr Ashe was the leading amateur sports tribunal

adjudicator around Melbourne at the time. He was awarded

life membership of Basketball Victoria, the overriding

authority of basketball across the state.


NBT put the case that remarks about the calibre of

refereeing in the final stages were made by NBT Players,

including Rascal, in private conversation amongst themselves,

but apparently overheard by the referee who had moved to

within earshot of the animated group. Several “colloquial

expressions” were used, it was admitted, but NBT argued the

remarks were succinct, made in private, would normally be19

held to be inaudible and were made without any intensions of

being heard by the officials whom Rascal, and others, assumed

were continuing on their way to the officials’ room.


The reverse side of the match score sheet carried the

referee’s report which alleged Rascal swore at the referee, now

translated as “The Major little Major!”


Lord Albert sought leave to appear on behalf of Rascal, who

was interstate on business. Mr Ashe consented. Lord Albert

brought with him two Player witnesses. The first claimed

Rascal did say, “the Major little Major”. The second witness

said that Rascal used the words, “the Major little Minor.”

Major-Major or Major-Minor? It was a case of splitting

hairs, the tribunal thought. Rascal got four weeks for

‘using obscene language in general.’ Mr Ashe said: “The

tribunal cannot condone the use of obscene language on the

basketball court.”


The clear-thinking Lord Albert, who has extensive

experience as an expert witness in planning and heritage

tribunals, had other ideas. He penned a six-page appeal, based

chiefly on denial of natural justice. It contained 12 ‘particulars’,

many of which related to the tribunal constitution and

procedures as defined by VBA Regulations 4.044, 4.041, 4.0522

and 4.084.


It was presented that the two female panellists precluded

an open discussion as to the colloquial meanings of expressions

allegedly used and despite the fact the four tribunal members

had all read the report form in detail, any specific examinations

on the report form was ruled out on the grounds that

discussion would be offensive to the female members.

The appeal also claimed that the tribunal was not in an

alert and attentive state because one member had fallen

asleep during the hearing.


And, while Rascal was charged with two offences, a ruling

on only one was brought down by the tribunal.

NBT requested that the association direct that a hearing de

novo be instituted in accordance with By Law 4.116 (a).

Eminent sports administrator, Malcolm Speed, QC, was

Basketball Victoria president at the time. He wrote to the Club,

agreeing that NBT had grounds for a fresh hearing.

It never eventuated. Shortly after sending the letter, a

mysterious fire, in Lindsay’s Gaze’s office block of portable

cabins, located over a practice court within the Albert Park

Stadium, destroyed case documentation, as well as much of

the historical records of several associations.


Rascal’s impeccable record remained untarnished as

VBHBA’s red hot case against him smouldered, to ash.




Graeme will speak about his book at a forthcoming Almanac dinner, details HERE


Read another extract from the book HERE


To buy the book click HERE


To find out more about Almanac memberships CLICK HERE



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