Lovett takes case to grievance tribunal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lovett takes case to grievance tribunal

24/02/2010 11:41:25 PM Comments (0)

Sacked player Andrew Lovett has had an important early win against St Kilda, winning the right to take his case before the AFL grievance tribunal.

Eight days after Lovett's dismissal from the club, the tribunal had a marathon hearing on Wednesday night that went for more than four hours.

Lovett wants to go before the grievance tribunal, but the Saints argued his sacking meant he no longer had that option.

Lovett's lawyers did not comment after the ruling, but the Saints again stressed they were right in sacking him.

"St Kilda finds itself in this position because of the acts and omissions of Andrew Lovett, which we believe gave us no choice other than to dismiss," said Saints vice-president and legal adviser Ross Levin.

"Andrew says it was not lawful to dismiss and we still maintain that it was.

"The tribunal's decision tonight is to proceed through the tribunal grievance procedure to decide that issue."

The hearing featured three hours of complex legal arguments from lawyers representing Lovett, the Saints, the AFL Players' Association and the AFL itself.

The three-man panel of chairman Jack Rush QC, Kevin Power and James Dowsley then took just over an hour to decide their rulings.

Crucially, they ruled that Lovett remained a player under the terms of the AFL collective bargaining agreement, despite his sacking.

That was one of the most important subjects covered in the hearing.

St Kilda sacked Lovett on Tuesday last week, a day after he was charged with rape.

"We're now facing a series of choices following the tribunal's decision in relation to how we proceed," Levin said.

"There are a range of choices and we will carefully consider all of our options in the coming days and will not make a decision at least until after March 5, when we have received the written reason for the decision of the tribunal."

In handing down their verdict, the panel urged Lovett and the Saints to consider mediation.

Lovett attended Wednesday night's hearing, but was not required to give evidence.

It emerged on Christmas Eve that Lovett was under police investigation and within hours, the Saints had suspended him indefinitely.

Lovett, 27, initially lodged a grievance notice earlier this month because he was unable to train with the club.

He now has a separate grievance over the termination of his three-year deal with the Saints, said to be worth $1 million, but the two matters will most likely become the one grievance.

The tribunal has also ruled the two parties need to go through the grievance process over Lovett's new complaint before it could go before the panel.

"We say this is something more appropriately pursued in the courts ... rather than being pursued in this place," Rohan Miller, who was appearing for the Saints, said during the hearing.

But Robert Niall, appearing for Lovett, said the tribunal should hear Lovett's complaint.

"It's clear beyond argument that you can come to the tribunal when it's all done and dusted," Niall said.

Lovett's legal team have said they are prepared to take the Saints to court if necessary over his sacking, but would prefer to go before the grievance tribunal.

AFL Players' Association lawyer Stuart Wood also spoke at Wednesday night's hearing, backing the argument of the Lovett camp.

Will Houghton QC appeared for the AFL and only commented on legal arguments, saying the league did not side with either the club or the player.

Niall also stressed during Wednesday's hearing that Lovett's legal team would strongly contest the reasons for dismissal that St Kilda set out in a letter to him.

"Mr Lovett denies misconduct of any kind, whether serious or wilful," Niall said.

Lovett's manager Alex McDonald, his civil lawyer Derek Humphery-Smith and AFL Players' Association chief executive Matt Finnis were also at the hearing.

Lovett appeared briefly in court last Friday on the rape charge and is scheduled to appear again in early May.

He was sacked without playing a game for St Kilda, after he was traded late last year from Essendon.

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