The Supreme Court of Bermuda has determined that all persons “deemed to belong” to Bermuda are eligible to represent Bermuda in International sporting events (see note 1, below). Until the Judgment handed down by Chief Justice Hargun on Friday 7th December, only those holding Bermudian Status and more recently, “deemed Bermudians”, were considered eligible for selection for Bermuda.
Chief Justice Hargun noted in his Judgment that the rules of International sporting competitions typically required participants to be either ‘citizens’ or ‘nationals’ of the countries they were representing and that as a British Overseas Territory, the equivalent of citizenship of Bermuda for these purposes should be determined by reference to the Bermuda Constitution. Section 11(5) of the Constitution defines all those who ‘Belong’ to Bermuda as those holding Bermudian Status, Naturalized British Overseas Territories Citizens, their wives and children under the age of 18.
The case was brought by two junior athletes, supported by Equal Opportunities in Sport, a group set up to promote participation in sport (see note 2, below).
Nick Williamson, spokesperson of Equal Opportunities in Sport said, “We hope this Judgment will be welcomed by the Bermuda Olympic Association and the Governing Bodies of all sporting federations in Bermuda who have lost home-grown and usually Bermuda-born junior elite athletes who ‘belong’ to Bermuda to other nations because until now they were not considered eligible to represent 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.
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.”
1. The Judgment of Hargun CJ 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, and a decision of Chief Justice Kawaley in October last year which held that all ‘Belongers’ to Bermuda can own shares in a local company without being subject to the 60/40 rule and can acquire and hold land in Bermuda without restriction on the same basis as Bermudians.
2. Equal Opportunities in Sport is a Bermuda company, the purposes of which are to promote, encourage and foster equal opportunity for participation in sport and sporting activities of whatever kind, whether as a participant, coach, official or otherwise, in Bermuda and internationally for all residents of Bermuda in accordance with the ideals of the International Olympic Association and the International governing bodies of all sports, regardless of age, race, place of origin, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, family status, religion, beliefs or political opinions and without discrimination.