Softball Australia v Steven Albee
The Respondent, Mr Steven Albee, was the head coach for NSW at the Under 14 Male Australian Softball Championships. During the final, on 17 April 2022, he was found to have acted in a verbally and physically aggressive manner towards a plate umpire following an incident between two players and was immediately ejected from the game. The Tournament Tribunal convened after the game found Mr Albee guilty of Offences against umpires - threatening an umpire by word/action and, under the Guidelines for Determining Penalties (Guidelines), imposed the minimum penalty of an eight (8) game suspension at a commensurate level. Softball Australia appealed the sanction to the NST on the basis that it was inadequate and sought the maximum penalty of two (2) years suspension. The matter proceeded in the Appeals Division of the NST, with a sole arbitrator determining preliminary and substantive issues (the Appeal).
As a preliminary issue, the NST member was required to make a determination on when Mr Albee’s current suspension was to end and whether, for the duration of the time it takes for the Appeal to be finalised with the NST, Mr Albee was to remain suspended. The Tribunal determined that Mr Albee was to remain suspended until a determination was made on the substantive issue in the Appeal.
The Appeal was conducted on the papers with the NST member considering submissions from the parties and the applicable rules, including the Guidelines and the 2022 Australian Championship Regulations, which incorporated a Coaches Code of Conduct. The NST member found that Mr Albee’s actions were particularly serious given he is an experienced coach and the conduct occurred at a National Championship level. The NST member also found that there were mitigating factors, as provided for by the Guidelines, including that Mr Albee apologised to the parents and to the plate umpire after the game, acknowledging his behaviour was unacceptable. The Tribunal determined that the sanction imposed by the Tournament Tribunal was inadequate, and that Mr Albee was to be suspended for a period of 18 months commencing from 17 April 2022.