Rheann Chung emerges victorious from arbitration with T&T Table Tennis Association

By February 21, 2020

An arbitration committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) has ruled that the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) exempt Rheann Chung from the country’s national trials next month to select teams for the Caribbean Championships and the Latin America and North America Championships, a qualifier for the Olympics in Tokyo in July.

The table tennis trials are set for March 1, and the TTFA expected the player, at short notice, to fly at her own expense from France, where she lives and plays professionally, despite not being previously required to attend trials for selection to the national team.

The committee was comprised of Chair Sonja Johnson, who is president, Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association and Joseph Howard Member of the Trinidad and Tobago Contract Bridge Association.

 The members unanimously agreed that based on the information presented during Tuesday’s arbitration that Chung is given an exemption for the two upcoming events in April, which are the Caribbean Championships and the Latin America and North America Championships.

During the hearings, the TTTTA confirmed that Chung had received exemptions in the past and stated that for the World Championships and the Spanish Open, there were only two persons interested in participating and therefore there was no need for a selection.

However, the TTTTA also expressed a fear that continuing the practise of granting exemptions to Chung, as was done in the past, can be questioned and that any player can seek an exemption or bring the TTTTA to arbitration because of this practice. Therefore, the policy needed to be corrected.

The TTTTA also claimed that the introduction of trials was the TTTTA’s attempt at solving this issue as it was a method, within the documented policy for selection, that they felt will be fair to all parties.

 Mr Leon Elliott, the association’s first vice president, went through the process used to determine the eligible players for the upcoming events and indicated that no weighting was used for the level of performances or criteria that was used to determine the female players eligible for the upcoming tournament.

The TTTTA also referenced sporting disciplines where top athletes are also required to do trials. They also cited a case though where a certain accommodation was made for a world-class athlete, namely Usain Bolt.

However, when questioned, the TTTTA did acknowledge that the selection policy was not put on the website as per the policy as the website was not functional for some time. However, they indicated they did circulate the document to clubs.

Chief among the panel’s reasons for siding with Chung was that contained within the TTTTA Constitution and Selection Policy, there is no section or language that prevents a decision to exempt a player from trials.

They also said there was a change in the approach to the selection, though the policy document did not change. This was done within a few weeks of an upcoming event.

The panel also agreed that Chung was correctly assessed as being eligible to participate in the upcoming events but it did not seem that her level of performance was sufficiently weighed.

There is precedent, the panel said,  in several sports for persons not to participate in national trials as well as instances that separate arrangements are made for top players, especially if they reside abroad.

The primary objective as agreed by all parties is to get the best team. The revised approach seems to put the achievement of this objective at risk as it presents any international player, including Chung, at an unfair disadvantage, especially given the short time frame and the need to self-fund the return, the panel said.

In light of the outcome, the panel recommended that the TTTTA revisit its selection policy and ensure that the language clearly conveys the process by which persons will be selected for national teams at all levels.

They also recommend that any changes to the selection policy should be done in a manner that involves the key stakeholders to ensure there is buy-in and understanding, while also providing enough notice to the wider community prior to implementation.

In addition, they said consideration should continue to be given to national players who reside abroad or those who consistently perform at an international standard. The TTTTA may want to demonstrate an appreciation for the athlete's sterling contributions while also providing an incentive to continue representing Trinidad and Tobago.

The Advocate attorneys were Dr Emir Crowne, Crystal Paul, Matthew Gayle while Jason Jones and Kerrina Samdeo were instructing attorneys in arbitration proceedings.




Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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