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Varnish finally sues BC/UK Sport

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Varnish finally sues BC/UK Sport

10 Nov 2017 10:06

Jess Varnish has finally pulled the trigger on suing BC and UK Sport:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/41939678

Has Varnish been holding off instigating court proceedings in the (vain) hope that she'd get her place back on the track squad? If so then it appears that BC is, even under new management, too stubborn to back down and smooth things over

Meanwhile UK Sport have been using super-aggressive tactics to try and strike out Varnish's claim:

"It is understood funding agency UK Sport had applied for a strike-out order to have her case dismissed, along with a costs order and deposit order, meaning Varnish's assets would have been seized pending the case. Had these been successful she would have had to have dropped her claim. But on Monday a judge dismissed the applications, allowing Varnish to proceed towards an employment tribunal."

If Varnish wins then IIRC there is no limit on the level of damages for discrimination claims so BC could end up having to make a £££s payout. Although more likely is a settlement with an NDA as BC would want to avoid more bad publicity. But with both sides entrenched this one could go all the way to the final hearing. It will shine a light on the mentality of BC's new management for sure - have they really changed...?

However Varnish has a legal hurdle to clear first which could have much wider implications for UK Sport, BC and GB's other Olympic sports which I suspect also set up their athletes as self-employed to avoid having to give them full employment rights, make pension contributions, etc:

"A preliminary hearing in April 2018 will determine whether Varnish should be considered as having effectively been an employee of UK Sport and British Cycling when she was competing. If her lawyers successfully argue that she did have employee status, the case could have major ramifications for all contracted British athletes who are funded by UK Sport. If they are officially deemed to be employees, UK Sport would have to pay pension and national insurance costs. This is currently avoided because athletes are not regarded as members of staff."

No wonder UK Sport is fighting dirty. If Varnish establishes that Team GB's Olympic athletes are employees and not self-employed the employment terms of all Olympic athletes would have to change going forward. That would put a dent in the Tokyo medal factory's funding. And possibly £££s would be owed in back-dated payments to athletes from previous Olympics. That would be expensive...

This will be a slow burner, legal actions always are, but worth keeping some popcorn to hand :D
Wiggo's Package
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10 Nov 2017 13:23

Talking about the differences between British Cycling staff being employees and athletes being funded giving the athletes less rights, I always struggle to get my head round the fact that staff are paid more than the athletes. Democracy and the follow on bureaucracy (legalised thieving) is very ugly indeed. The staff only have their over paid jobs because of the athletes and yet the staff get better paid and have more rights. It's the tail wagging the dog isn't it?
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Re:

10 Nov 2017 13:31

Craigee wrote:Talking about the differences between British Cycling staff being employees and athletes being funded giving the athletes less rights, I always struggle to get my head round the fact that staff are paid more than the athletes. Democracy and the follow on bureaucracy (legalised thieving) is very ugly indeed. The staff only have their over paid jobs because of the athletes and yet the staff get better paid and have more rights. It's the tail wagging the dog isn't it?
You seem to be choosing to overlook the fact that athletes have other income arising as a direct consequence of their being members of the GB squad, and the fact that BC helps them considerably with that. Many marketing requests are funnelled through British Cycling.
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Re: Re:

10 Nov 2017 14:31

CW's take:

http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/jess-varnish-takes-legal-action-british-cycling-uk-sport-358338

'If Varnish now pursues with legal action and her claim is successful, there will be a major shake-up in the way that UK Sport-funded athletes are perceived. They would be treated as employees, and therefore entitled to a pension and have their funding taxed at 20 per cent. It would also potentially open the way for other athletes to take legal action against British Cycling and UK Sport, and make it difficult for riders to be dropped from the national programme.

A source close to Varnish told the BBC that: “She’s not doing this for money. She’s frustrated that neither UK Sport nor British Cycling have changed the grey situation that athletes still remain in. Athletes still have no real rights, no pensions, no grievance and whistleblower procedures, and no course of action, outside of civil action. There are some really deep-rooted issues which she’s passionate about.” It is still possible that Varnish’s claim could be settled out of court, although if Varnish is seeking a change in the way that athletes are treated rather than for financial compensation, then this seems unlikely'
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10 Nov 2017 14:36

I hope Varnish has deep pockets - These types of legal actions are usually costly drawn out events in which the defendant's use many varied delaying tactics - Interested in the view of other lottery funded athletes.
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Re:

10 Nov 2017 14:44

Craigee wrote:Talking about the differences between British Cycling staff being employees and athletes being funded giving the athletes less rights, I always struggle to get my head round the fact that staff are paid more than the athletes. Democracy and the follow on bureaucracy (legalised thieving) is very ugly indeed. The staff only have their over paid jobs because of the athletes and yet the staff get better paid and have more rights. It's the tail wagging the dog isn't it?


Alternative view....the chance for so many athletes to develop their talents into potentially lucrative careers only exists due to the work of staff and coaches developing and implementing hugely succesful programmes for both coaching and funding models.
I wonder how many potentially great cyclists in the 70's and 80's ended up as accountants because there were no programmes in place to identify and nurture their natural talents
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Re:

10 Nov 2017 15:04

yaco wrote:I hope Varnish has deep pockets - These types of legal actions are usually costly drawn out events in which the defendant's use many varied delaying tactics - Interested in the view of other lottery funded athletes.


You have no idea what you are talking about. Since the Woolf reforms in the UK, with the change of Civil Peocedure Rules, civil action is neither expensive nor difficult and certainly not drawn out or be able to be delayed. Compared to most counties it’s relatively fast with costs covered by the losing side. Many law firms will cover costs until settlement is received.
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Re:

10 Nov 2017 19:59

yaco wrote:I hope Varnish has deep pockets - These types of legal actions are usually costly drawn out events in which the defendant's use many varied delaying tactics - Interested in the view of other lottery funded athletes.


Most likely Varnish's lawyers are running this case on a no win/no fee basis - if so Varnish will not end up out of pocket on legal fees - and lawyers only take on no win/no fee cases if they're very confident they're going to win (for obvious reasons)

In the UK discrimination claim damages are un-capped and high profile cases can end up with 6 figure payouts - factor in today's comments that Varnish doesn't want to settle because establishing new legal precedents is more important and this could get very interesting

Having said that everyone has their price and it will be helluva lot cheaper for BC/UK Sport to pay Varnish a fortune to go away than to have to pay 20%+ more in staff costs across the board going forward
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Re: Re:

10 Nov 2017 20:12

Wiggo's Package wrote:Having said that everyone has their price and it will be helluva lot cheaper for BC/UK Sport to pay Varnish a fortune to go away than to have to pay 20%+ more in staff costs across the board going forward
Have you read the actual reporting of this? She's saying she won't settle: this is about a principle.
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Re: Re:

10 Nov 2017 20:12

Wiggo's Package wrote:
yaco wrote:I hope Varnish has deep pockets - These types of legal actions are usually costly drawn out events in which the defendant's use many varied delaying tactics - Interested in the view of other lottery funded athletes.


Most likely Varnish's lawyers are running this case on a no win/no fee basis - if so Varnish will not end up out of pocket on legal fees - and lawyers only take on no win/no fee cases if they're very confident they're going to win (for obvious reasons)

In the UK discrimination claim damages are un-capped and high profile cases can end up with 6 figure payouts - factor in today's comments that Varnish doesn't want to settle because establishing new legal precedents is more important and this could get very interesting

Having said that everyone has their price and it will be helluva lot cheaper for BC/UK Sport to pay Varnish a fortune to go away than to have to pay 20%+ more in staff costs across the board going forward


There are no punitive damages in the UK unlike the US. She can potentially only claim “loss revenue” for a short amount of time and loss of character. In an Olympic Year if she could be considered a medalist that might be £250,000 - £300,000. Employment tribunals cap at £42,000 if the case is heard on that track. A judge will decide first where the case goes, court or tribunal.

What UK Sport and British Cycling most fear is this case sets a precedence which several other claims base their claims upon. Likely scenario is that settle before it gets that far.
Last edited by thehog on 11 Nov 2017 17:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 00:13

fmk_RoI wrote:
Wiggo's Package wrote:Having said that everyone has their price and it will be helluva lot cheaper for BC/UK Sport to pay Varnish a fortune to go away than to have to pay 20%+ more in staff costs across the board going forward
Have you read the actual reporting of this? She's saying she won't settle: this is about a principle.

Wiggo didn't claim she would, could or should. Maybe you should read his statment again.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 08:07

fmk_RoI wrote:
Wiggo's Package wrote:Having said that everyone has their price and it will be helluva lot cheaper for BC/UK Sport to pay Varnish a fortune to go away than to have to pay 20%+ more in staff costs across the board going forward
Have you read the actual reporting of this? She's saying she won't settle: this is about a principle.


I don't doubt that for Varnish the principles at stake are very important - firstly she'd like to establish that Olympic athletes are employees, have employment rights and should be treated with respect; secondly she'd like a court to confirm that she suffered discrimination at the hands of BC/Sutton

But if Varnish's case is being run on a no win/no fee basis she won't be calling the shots on how the litigation plays out - the lawyers will

And I think I'm right in saying that if BC/UK Sport make a payment into court in an attempt to settle the case which is refused by Varnish and the tribunal then awards Varnish a lesser amount then BC/UK Sport won't have to pay Varnish's legal fees even though she's lost the case - and Varnish's lawyers will not want to risk that happening

So it would be great if Varnish could establish that Olympic athletes should have proper employment rights (in a parallel case Uber are running out of appeals against rulings that their gig economy business model is a sham); and it would be great if a court confirmed that Varnish suffered discrimination at the hands of BC/Sutton (because too many dinosaurs are still in denial about that) - but there are reasons why that may not happen which may be out of Varnish's control
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 10:51

brownbobby wrote:
Craigee wrote:Talking about the differences between British Cycling staff being employees and athletes being funded giving the athletes less rights, I always struggle to get my head round the fact that staff are paid more than the athletes. Democracy and the follow on bureaucracy (legalised thieving) is very ugly indeed. The staff only have their over paid jobs because of the athletes and yet the staff get better paid and have more rights. It's the tail wagging the dog isn't it?


Alternative view....the chance for so many athletes to develop their talents into potentially lucrative careers only exists due to the work of staff and coaches developing and implementing hugely succesful programmes for both coaching and funding models.
I wonder how many potentially great cyclists in the 70's and 80's ended up as accountants because there were no programmes in place to identify and nurture their natural talents


Well it is another view but I still say it's the tail wagging the dog. The staff get better contracts and move on to better higher paid jobs all thanks to the fact they had it easy in assisting great athletes. You're only as good as the rider. Remember too that all the riders got into the program thanks to, in many cases their amateur coach who helped them get there. Then the BC staff cash in on this. It's typical buearucracy in today's world.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 15:52

thehog wrote:
yaco wrote:I hope Varnish has deep pockets - These types of legal actions are usually costly drawn out events in which the defendant's use many varied delaying tactics - Interested in the view of other lottery funded athletes.


You have no idea what you are talking about. Since the Woolf reforms in the UK, with the change of Civil Peocedure Rules, civil action is neither expensive nor difficult and certainly not drawn out or be able to be delayed. Compared to most counties it’s relatively fast with costs covered by the losing side. Many law firms will cover costs until settlement is received.


I dont know what I'm talking about YET in the initial court hearings to determine whether Varnish could take her case further ( BC's legals went for the jugular in asking for the full range of court costs if Varnish lost ) - So there was no backing down from BC's legal eagles - And as your last sentence states if Varnish passes the Employee Tribunal to start civil proceedings and loses she is up for costs - And BC's legal teams will be as pedantic as possible which leads to an increase in total costs.
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11 Nov 2017 15:59

I will also add that BC ultimately on behalf of Olympic Sports and the Government want the status quo retained - That is Olympic funded athletes continue to receive 'Grants', rather then being considered employees - Think Wiggo's Package has articulated the likely outcome of the Varnish case.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 16:52

yaco wrote:I dont know what I'm talking about YET in the initial court hearings to determine whether Varnish could take her case further ( BC's legals went for the jugular in asking for the full range of court costs if Varnish lost ) - So there was no backing down from BC's legal eagles - And as your last sentence states if Varnish passes the Employee Tribunal to start civil proceedings and loses she is up for costs - And BC's legal teams will be as pedantic as possible which leads to an increase in total costs.
With all due respect yaco, you really don't appear to have a clue here:
The Telegraph has learnt British Cycling also had the option of submitting costs and deposit order applications against Varnish but did not do so.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 17:08

fmk_RoI wrote:
yaco wrote:I dont know what I'm talking about YET in the initial court hearings to determine whether Varnish could take her case further ( BC's legals went for the jugular in asking for the full range of court costs if Varnish lost ) - So there was no backing down from BC's legal eagles - And as your last sentence states if Varnish passes the Employee Tribunal to start civil proceedings and loses she is up for costs - And BC's legal teams will be as pedantic as possible which leads to an increase in total costs.
With all due respect yaco, you really don't appear to have a clue here:
The Telegraph has learnt British Cycling also had the option of submitting costs and deposit order applications against Varnish but did not do so.


Exactly. It’s very likely, even if Varnish fails in her attempt for compensation that a judge will not issue a costs order against her. Any sensible claim a judge would not expect an individual to consume the costs of both sides, British Cycling are alone on this one and will likely settle before it gets to the stage of document discovery.
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Re:

11 Nov 2017 17:20

yaco wrote:I will also add that BC ultimately on behalf of Olympic Sports and the Government want the status quo retained - That is Olympic funded athletes continue to receive 'Grants', rather then being considered employees - Think Wiggo's Package has articulated the likely outcome of the Varnish case.


It is irrevant to a civil claim for discrimination. Whether she is seen as an employee or not does not limit her ability to claim compensation.

Her real power is to issue witness summons and have Sutton and Brailsford provide evidence. They cannot refuse such request or face a criminal charge.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 18:58

thehog wrote:
fmk_RoI wrote:
yaco wrote:I dont know what I'm talking about YET in the initial court hearings to determine whether Varnish could take her case further ( BC's legals went for the jugular in asking for the full range of court costs if Varnish lost ) - So there was no backing down from BC's legal eagles - And as your last sentence states if Varnish passes the Employee Tribunal to start civil proceedings and loses she is up for costs - And BC's legal teams will be as pedantic as possible which leads to an increase in total costs.
With all due respect yaco, you really don't appear to have a clue here:
The Telegraph has learnt British Cycling also had the option of submitting costs and deposit order applications against Varnish but did not do so.


Exactly. It’s very likely, even if Varnish fails in her attempt for compensation that a judge will not issue a costs order against her. Any sensible claim a judge would not expect an individual to consume the costs of both sides, British Cycling are alone on this one and will likely settle before it gets to the stage of document discovery.


So in effect your thought's are similar to Wiggo's Package in that there will be a mutually agreed settlement - We'll have to wait and see what happens but I suppose the devil will be in the detail.
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Re: Re:

11 Nov 2017 19:29

yaco wrote:I suppose the devil will be in the detail.
Which is quite regrettable, really, given detail is your weak suit.
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