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(CMC) — The island’s sports bodies may soon have a bigger pool of athletes to draw on at international events following a Supreme Court ruling.
Chief Justice Narinder Hargun determined that non-Bermudian “belongers” who are “deemed to belong” to the country are eligible for selection.
Until he handed down his ruling, only those holding Bermudian status and, more recently, “deemed Bermudians”, were considered eligible.
In a case brought by two junior athletes, supported by Equal Opportunities in Sport, a group set up to promote participation in sport, highlighted that the Bermuda 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.
Reacting to the ruling, Nick Williamson, spokesman of Equal Opportunities in Sport, said he hopes the judgment will be welcomed by the Bermuda Olympic Association (BOA) 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.”
Minister of National Security Wayne Caines, the minister responsible for immigration, said: “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.