Court deems belongers’ can represent Bermuda
Non-Bermudian “belongers” are a step closer to representing the island at international sporting events after the Supreme Court of Bermuda determined that all athletes “deemed to belong” to the country are eligible for selection.
Until the judgment handed down by Chief Justice Narinder Hargun last Friday, only those holding Bermudian status and, more recently, “deemed Bermudians”, were considered eligible.
In a case brought by two junior athletes against the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association, supported by Equal Opportunities in Sport, highlighted that the Constitution defines all those who “belong” to Bermuda as those holding Bermudian status, naturalised British Overseas Territories citizens, their wives and children under the age of 18.
Nick Williamson, spokesman of Equal Opportunities in Sport, a group set up to promote participation in sport, said he hopes the ruling will be welcomed by the Bermuda Olympic Association and the governing bodies of all sporting federations in Bermuda.
“The recognition of all ‘belongers’ for national sports selection should create a wider pool of potential athletes representing Bermuda in international sporting events, which it is hoped will lead to even greater sporting success,” he said.
“We hope that this ruling will encourage sporting federations and the BOA to recognise the positive benefits of an expanded talent pool and the longer-term benefits to the whole community in developing and retaining active sportsmen and women in Bermuda.
“There are talented children in numerous sports such as cycling, swimming, triathlon, cricket, hockey and football and we believe this ruling can have a positive impact in the continued development of many of the excellent sporting programmes the island has. It should also help bolster those sporting events where it is often difficult to secure the right number of suitably qualified athletes from such a small nation, such as swim relay teams.”
A statement from BASA read: “The Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association is pleased that the legal claim brought against the charity has been dismissed without any award of damages or costs.
“The charity takes no position on the constitutional issues decided by the Supreme Court and will continue to focus on growing and strengthening the sport of swimming in Bermuda.”
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, the ministry responsible for immigration, added: “This judgment will be reviewed against the background of best practice in the making of immigration policy which requires fairness, the protection of Bermudian rights and a system that reflects the expressed will of the people of Bermuda.”
The judgment of the Chief Justice follows on the heels of a Court of Appeal decision from 2016, confirming that Bermudian and non-Bermudian “belongers” should be treated equally in terms of employment restrictions, owning shares in a local company and acquiring land in Bermuda without restriction on the same basis as Bermudians.
On the eligibility ruling, Stan Douglas, the BOA general secretary, said: “We will be getting together with some learned minds to see where we stand following the ruling.”
David Sabir, president of the Association of National Sport Governing Bodies, said the 28 national sports governing bodies had not yet met to discuss the implications of the ruling.
“As of yet, we don’t know the entire scope of what this ruling actually represents,” Sabir said.
“In due course, I’m certain the relevant bodies will make very clear what the ruling actually represents, how it will be applied, the significance it represents to national bodies and, in particular, to international representation.”
Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president, believes much will depend on the stance of each individual world governing body regarding which athletes are deemed eligible to represent Bermuda.
“The ability to participate in events where nationality is a criteria is generally regulated by the sanctioning body of the event,” Dunne said.
“When I take an athlete to the UCI [International Cycling Union] World Championships, Bermuda issues a licence in which we have to identify the athlete’s nationality. We ask the applicant to provide a copy of their passport, therefore identifying their nationality. That’s our normal process.
“If people who don’t hold that standard documentation are considered nationals for the purpose of sporting competition, there still needs to be some sort of documentation. The situation we’re in now following this ruling is that we need to obtain clarification from the UCI on what documentation they will accept in order to confirm the nationality of these individuals.”
Dunne believes that deepening the pool of individuals eligible to represent Bermuda could have a positive impact for the island’s performances at international level. “The more people we can have who are eligible to represent Bermuda at international level is going to help advance sport,” he said. “As administrators, we have to understand who that is.”