July 14 - International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) President John Twomey says his organisation is facing bankruptcy due to the legal costs incurred when the British Sonar team appealed the awarding of a penalty, which cost them a bronze medal at London 2012.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) submitted an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in September last year, following the ISDF's decision to hand John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel a discretionary four-point penalty when bosun Simon Hiscocks cleaned the port side of the keel after being authorised to lift the boat out of the water to inspect some damage.
The Lausanne based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) met in London in April and upheld the IFDS's original decision to penalise the British team, ruling that it did not have the legal jurisdiction to alter the IFDS's decision due to technicalities regarding the rules which govern sailing in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) handbook.
Following the decision, the British team, who finished sixth at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, dropped to fifth, allowing the Norwegian trio of Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen to move up into the bronze medal position.
In its ruling, CAS, which published the report in June, ordered the British Paralympic Association (BPA) to pay the full costs of the arbitration but that each party must pay its own legal fees and costs.
Speaking to insidethegames, Twomey (pictured top) of Ireland, who also competed in his tenth Paralympics at London 2012 also in the Sonar event, says that the court's decision to force each party to pay their own legal costs is having a major impact on the future of the IFDS and the organisation is seeking assistance from third parties to meet the financial burden.
"We are a very small organisation in financial terms and our income comes from our registered national authorities in the form of an annual fee, and we are not really geared up for major legal outlays," he said.
"The fact that the arbitrator let the legal costs lie with the parties obviously caused us a great deal of difficulty, and we just have to get some third party support to pay those legal fees.
"If we can't get outside assistance then obviously it [bankruptcy] would be a consequence.
"We are going to explore all opportunities and avenues to see where we can raise this money."
Twomey, who took over the Presidency of the IFDS in November last year to replace Linda Merkle, revealed that he has made contact with the IPC to see if it can provide any support and that "positive" discussions have been taking place with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) since early this year on the possibility of financial assistance or even a merger between the two organisations.
"We are appealing to everybody really," said the 57-year-old.
"We're basically trying to see where we can get assistance to pay these fees.
"We have been in discussions with ISAF since early in the year with regards to merging the two organisations, so that you would have a one-stop-shop for sailing worldwide.
"Our sailors are all ISAF members anyway and we sail under the ISAF rules, so we are looking at that possibility to see if there is a framework where we could merge IFDS into ISAF.
"Both sides are coming to the table with an open mind, and everybody is there for the benefit of sailing and not for self gain so that is a great way to have any discussions."
The Seoul 1988 discus gold medallist indicated that the deadline for raising funds to compensate the IFDS' legal representatives is September.
"Our legal people have been very fair with us," Twomey said.
"They have charged us the bare minimum and a lot of the work was done voluntarily.
"We have spoken to our legal people and we have said that we hope to be sitting down with them in early September to discuss how we will discharge the fees.
The RYA said that it would welcome the merger of the IFDS and ISAF which would afford Paralympians the same level and standard of resources as Olympic competitors.
However, it pointed out that CAS' decision to rule that each side meet its own legal costs indicated that they had solid grounds to lodge the initial appeal.
"The amount of the legal costs incurred by IFDS in relation to this case is entirely a matter between IFDS and the US attorneys it appointed to act on its behalf," a spokesperson told insidethegames.
"The reasons why the arbitrator decided that each party should bear its own legal costs are set out in his award, which will be published by CAS in due course, but suffice to say if the arbitrator felt the case was frivolous then in all probability he would have apportioned costs differently."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the BPA, said: "We stand by our decision to take the matter of the penalty given to the British Sonar boat during the London 2012 Paralympic Games to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"We respect the decision that the arbitrator made that, having thoroughly reviewed all the evidence presented, the International Jury's decision must stand, determining that the matter concerned 'sport technical rules' which, according to the International Paralympic Committee Eligibility Code, are unable to be reviewed by CAS.
"We are not in a position to comment on the financial implications of this ruling for any of the parties involved."
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