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Buckley v Tutty

(1971) 125 CLR 353



Tutty was a professional footballer. He was a member of the Balmain Club which played matches organised by the NSWRL. Buckley was the president of the League. Both the League and Club were unincorporated so that Trade Practices Act did not apply. The League rules (a) required players to be registered before they could play, (b) contained provisions relating to the transfer of players between club and (c) prevented a player from playing for another club without the permission of the club with whom he was registered.

Tutty claimed the rules constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade.



There was no need for the relationship to be contractual - the ROT doctrine applies to restraints ‘howsoever imposed, and whether voluntary or involuntary’. The rules in this case were in ROT. ‘Trade’ extends ‘to the exercise of a man’s profession or calling’ – including part time sport. The rules (1) Prevent professional players making the most out of their skills and (2) Prevent a member of one club playing for another (without approval) even if not contractually bound to play for the former.

The Court held the restraints were "plainly a fetter on the right of a player to seek and engage in employment.  It is not to the point to say that the player may resign from the League.  If he does resign he may perhaps obtain employment as a labourer or as a cricketer but he will not be able to obtain employment as a professional Rugby League footballer, either in New South Wales or in a number of other places."


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