The Malaysian Lawyer interviewed Richard Wee, sports lawyer and Deputy President of the Sports Law Association of Malaysia. We wanted to find out more about the area of sports law and of this new association. There are lots of exciting plans for the future and it looks like the development of sports law can only skyrocket.
First of all, congratulations on being elected as Deputy President of the Pro-Tem committee of the Sports Law Association of Malaysia (SLAM).
Can you share with us what factors led to the formation of SLAM?
Thank you for your warm wishes. It is indeed a great honour to be elected by my fellow peers to lead SLAM as deputy president. We hope to create a platform for interested parties to explore the frontiers of sports law in Malaysia. Under Datuk Dr Sundra Rajoo’s leadership, I am confident that the objectives of SLAM, particularly the aspiration that one day Malaysia becomes the sports law hub of this region, will be a reality.
As you may be aware, Messrs Richard Wee and Yip (RWY) host and organise on an annual basis a Sports Law Conference since 2013. The said conference is a rostrum to generate discussions and exchange views about sports law. It was our fervent hope that the series of conferences will be the impetus to have more lawyers embracing sports law and offering services to the sports industry. To a large extent, that aim has succeeded, to the point that the sports law fraternity began to entertain the idea of a dedicated society to cater for the interest of sports lawyers.
So, at the last conference in 2015, the idea and suggestion to form SLAM was first mooted and that idea was warmly received by the delegates. The Minister of Youth and Sports, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, and President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), Tunku Imran, who were both in attendance at that said conference, also voiced their optimism with the proposed association.
Carrying the spirit of that support, RWY with the leadership of KLRCA charted and planned the creation of SLAM.
On the 4th of July 2016, over 20 people attended the first Pro-tem meeting. It was a historical meeting as members of the Malaysian Bar and the legal fraternity were on the verge of forming a dedicated association to advance the interest and development of sports law. This has never been done before. At the same Pro-tem, the following Office Bearers were elected.
Pro-tem Committee 2016:- President : Datuk Sundra Rajoo Deputy President : Richard Wee Secretary : Lesley Lim Treasurer : Dan Raj
Committee Members :- Dr Jady, Brian Song, Peter-Douglas Ling, Michelle Sunita, Farez Jinnah.
What are the next steps that the association will be taking and how does one join the association?
The constitution with other relevant documents will be submitted to the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and hopefully in a few months time, SLAM will be duly registered and we can start executing our plans.
Thereafter, SLAM will invite members of the Bar, individuals and corporations involved and related to the sports industry, academicians and athletes to apply for membership. The membership is subjected to an application process which will be led by the Secretary of SLAM.
What are some of the future activities and events that SLAM may organise?
SLAM has a few proposed plans and they are listed below:-
a. Development of sports law We hope to encourage more law schools to offer the subject of sports law in their respective programs. We also hope to work with the Malaysian Bar to encourage more lawyers to take up sports law and as mentioned above, to offer relevant services for sports. To that end, we have already reached out to a few tertiary education centres to hold forums and seminars at their respective institutions. The forums and seminars will probably encourage some law students to pick up this area of law. As for the Malaysian Bar, once SLAM is registered, the association may hold dialogues and meetings with the Bar particularly with the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) department to hold the relevant seminars.
b. Research and materials Like any other area of law, legal reviews, journals and reports are necessary. SLAM wishes to create its own Sports Law Journal and Dr. Jady mentioned above, is appointed to lead the editorial team for this project. Articles and commentaries will be welcomed not just by members of the Bar but other interested parties too.
c. Conferences, seminars and trainings SLAM intends to organize its own annual Sports Law Conference and will supplement the said annual conference with a series of seminars and trainings. Speakers from all over Malaysia and the world will be invited. For the foreseeable future, most of the activities will be based in Kuala Lumpur but eventually, we hope to expand to other major cities in Malaysia.
d. Outreach and network SLAM will reach out to other like associations all over the world. We also hope to be the center of a South East Asian sports law. In time, we hope to build a strong and firm network for our members to utilize and be part of. As mentioned above, we aspire to be the sports law hub of our region and this process will help us achieve that.
These are just some preliminary plans that we have. Perhaps in time, the plans may be tweaked or changed and further proposals may be added.
What is the state of sports law in Malaysia presently?
At the moment, the awareness of sports law in Malaysia is fairly low. Many lawyers may not realise that sports law has its own jurisprudence, rules and regulations and its own conventions. There is much to do to not only create the awareness about sports law, but to advance and improve the standard of sports law in Malaysia. Sports law is an international area of law. Technically any Malaysia sports lawyer may advise a European or American athlete for matters ranging from sports image to social media. For example, why can’t one of us be David Beckham’s lawyer? So, the potential of sports law in Malaysia is huge.
Specifically, how are sporting disputes presently resolved in Malaysia? What changes are in store for these laws?
Currently, sports disputes are regulated by the respective sports associations. Parties involved in the dispute may also refer the matter to the courts. For associations which have adopted the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) as the ultimate body to resolve disputes, the dispute of that association may be referred to CAS.
However, there is a specific legislation referred to as the Sports Development Act 1997. In Section 24, the dispute of the association may be referred to the Minister of Sports. The minister, on the other hand, may refer to a Sports Advisory Panel to advise him of the next course of action. It is rather unique that sports disputes in Malaysia may be settled by a minister instead of an arbitrator or a judge.
There are plans to create a National Dispute Resolution Body for Sports, perhaps with KLRCA as the center. Recently in May 2014, CAS and KLRCA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which effectively appointed KLRCA as a centre to host and hear sports disputes in this region. I am made to understand a few cases have been heard in KLRCA. SLAM will be at the forefront of this area as the association intends to assist the relevant party to formulate a practical dispute resolution system for sports.