Jess Varnish unlikely to hear outcome of tribunal appeal for at least four weeks

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Jess Varnish's employment tribunal appeal will be heard next week. - PA
Jess Varnish's employment tribunal appeal will be heard next week. - PA

The judgement in the Jess Varnish appeal hearing which begins on Tuesday is unlikely to be handed down for at least four weeks, and possibly not until late July or August.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal will stage a public hearing via webinar on Tuesday and Wednesday into the former track cyclist’s longstanding dispute with British Cycling, which could have significant consequences for the status of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Varnish, 29, is arguing she should have been considered an employee of British Cycling or the funding agency UK Sport when she was controversially dropped from the elite programme for the 2016 Olympics.

A tribunal ruled against her in January of last year but in December she won the right to appeal after initially being blocked from doing so. The judge at the original tribunal agreed with the governing bodies that the Lottery funding provided to athletes such as Varnish made them more akin to students receiving grants than employees.

Varnish - who is currently living in Switzerland with her partner - will not be giving evidence at the appeal hearing. There will be no fresh evidence or witnesses called. It will just be the two sets of lawyers arguing over the five or six points of law on which the judge in December granted the right to appeal.

British Cycling will have a new barrister representing them with Thomas Linden QC having become a judge.

The appeal hearing could order a new tribunal to take place or overturn the decision of the original one, which would set an important precedent regarding state-funded athletes’ employment status. Linden memorably said that that outcome would be like “the skies falling in” for UK Sport.

It is understood that it will take anywhere from four to 10 weeks for the judgement to be handed down.

A British Cycling spokesman said: “The decision to contest this case has always been founded on our view that the true picture of our relationship with riders who represent this country is not one of employer-employee but that of an organisation supporting talented and dedicated athletes to achieve their best. This view was supported in law by the decision of the first tribunal.

“The hearing was listed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and, while there are significant challenges for sport and all other sectors of society at this time, we will continue to represent what we believe are the best interests of every rider currently supported through the high performance system, and all those who hope to one day compete at an Olympics or Paralympics.

“We very much regret that Jess has been advised to pursue the route of an employment tribunal when other avenues were available to her. The culture of the Great Britain Cycling Team has changed for the better since Jess first raised what everyone recognises as legitimate concerns.”

What to Read Next