Sport Law

The Legal Framework For Arbitration In Sports

INTRODUCTION

The world of sports is not devoid of controversy, as a number of different disputes occur between the major players. This dispute covers a variety of topics, including disagreements in the club, concerns involving the sport’s governing authority and its members, employment, and contractual matters. A Court had to be established where these disagreements could be amicably settled within a fair amount of time due to the peculiarities of sports, and the time commitment required for most sports. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was established in 1984 to resolve any disputes relating to sports, and has been placed under the administrative and financial authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).[1]

Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) located in Switzerland, which was founded in 1984, has shaped the parameters of international sports dispute resolution. The CAS is the dominant force in international sports arbitration, as evidenced by the volume of disputes that have been brought before it. The CAS has about 300 arbitrators from 87 countries, chosen for their specialist knowledge of arbitration and sports law. Around 300 cases are registered by the CAS every year.[2] Furthermore, it is undeniable that the CAS’s reputation in international sports arbitration is significantly impacted by its recognition by the statutes of international sports organizations.

Despite the magnitude and diversity of international sports, one organization (the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland) dominates the field of sports arbitration. The CAS is sometimes referred to as a Supreme Court for sports disputes, and the sporting community as a whole bears witness to its influence. It has registered over 2,700 different arbitration procedures since its establishment in 1984.

How is the CAS organized?

The CAS has two “decentralized offices” in Sydney and New York in addition to its main office in Lausanne. As a result of a number of individual partnership arrangement deals struck by CAS, a number of alternative hearing centers have recently been added in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo.[3] All four of CAS’s new partners submitted formal applications to serve as alternate hearing locations for cases, and the court determined that they met the criteria and adequately represented areas where the professional sport is expanding swiftly. It’s yet unclear how well-liked this opportunity will do and whether other locations will be introduced. Ad Hoc Accelerated Arbitration at big athletic events, Ordinary Arbitration, Appeals Arbitration, and Mediation are the four unique and distinct dispute resolution procedures offered by the CAS.

What kind of disputes does the CAS resolve?

The number of arbitrations the CAS initiated in 2011 rose to 365, which is a 12% increase, over those initiated in 2010. (298). The previous record for the number of CAS-initiated arbitrations in a calendar year was 311 for 2008, which is indicative of a higher caseload in an “Olympic” year. On this basis, it is conceivable that 2012’s final statistics will show that the CAS had another record year. The kind of disputes that the CAS settles are incredibly varied and can range from simple business conflicts that just so happen to have a sporting context to very sport-specific disputes involving actions or incidents that occur on the playing field. The following are some disputes resolved by CAS

Football Employment Disputes

The type of issues that come before the CAS most frequently are appeals from rulings of FIFA,[4] the organization that governs football internationally and has its own internal judicial system. This kind of disagreement often results from the termination of a player or coach’s employment contract, or the transfer of a player between teams. Due to such migration, compensation is typically due to the player’s former teams, either in accordance with the parties’ contractual obligations or in accordance with the intricate web of rules that apply to football transfers, both domestically and internationally.[5]

Disciplinary Disputes

Appeals against disciplinary sanctions rank as the second most frequent kind of dispute before the CAS. Sanctions for violating anti-doping rule appeals make up the majority of this category. According to Article 13.2.1 of the World Anti-Doping Code, “cases arising from participation in an International Event or cases involving International-Level Athletes, the decision (concerning an anti-doping rule infraction) may be appealed exclusively to CAS in accordance with the provisions applicable before such Court.” The CAS was chosen as the sole appeals body for all international anti-doping cases, including in sports like rugby where the CAS had no jurisdiction. Numerous appeals of decisions made in accordance with anti-doping regulations have been submitted to the CAS.

In many anti-doping cases, the appellant is a sportsperson who is contesting a suspension that has been imposed on him, but the CAS also frequently receives appeals from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)[6] asking for a sentence against a specific sportsperson to be raised. Anti-doping cases brought before the CAS quite often include factual evidence describing the alleged violation’s circumstances, expert testimony addressing the reliability or otherwise of the scientific findings and the positive test, and legal arguments addressing the interpretation and application of the relevant anti-doping regulations. In 2001, the Court decided the case of Andreea Răducan v. International Olympic Committee. This was a controversial anti-doping case, where it was fairly clear the athlete received cold and flu tablets from her doctor. This resulted in a positive urine test, with the Court concluding:

“The Panel is aware of the impact its decision will have on a fine, young, elite athlete. It finds, in balancing the interests of Miss Raducan with the commitment of the Olympic Movement to drug-free sport, the Anti-Doping Code must be enforced without compromise”[7].

Match-Fixing and Ethical Disputes

Match fixing is the practice of playing or officiating a game with the aim of achieving a predetermined outcome, which is frequently against the rules of the game. Match fixing may occur for a variety of reasons, such as accepting bribes from bookmakers or sports bettors or using blackmail. Additionally, competitors could purposefully underperform in order to receive a future benefit. A player might also perform poorly in order to manipulate the sport system.[8]

In recent years, a pattern of incidents involving match-fixing and corruption has started to develop. The authors predict that as the burden of CAS reflects the current difficulties in sports, the number of cases in this field would increase. The difficulty parties have gathering enough evidence is one issue that hampers CAS’s capacity to make decisions about these actions. While some CAS Panels have explicitly stated that the panel should take into account the fact that corruption is, by nature, concealed and that those engaged in it will seek to use avoidance measures to ensure that they leave no sign of their improper conduct, this logic was not applied in a recent high-profile corruption case.[9] One could legitimately worry that the capacity of sports organizations to successfully combat corruption is compromised because they lack the coercive investigative tools usually required to unearth the truth.

CONCLUSION

Sports are now more important to the general public than they have ever been, so effective dispute resolution is essential. Arbitration is a good strategy. It is quick, professional, and diverse. Due to the rise of disputes, litigation is not a good method of dispute resolution. Because of the current circumstances, the disputes must be resolved through arbitration using CAS on the global stage and ICAS on the national stage. These specialist forums offer a significant advantage over the typical dispute resolution procedures used in regular courts.


[1]TAS/CAS https://www.tas-cas.org/en/general-information/frequently-asked Accessed 15/11/2022.

[2] TAS/CAS https://www.tas-cas.org/en/general-information/frequently-asked Accessed 15/11/2022.

[3] TAS/CAS https://www.tas-cas.org/en/arbitration/ad-hoc. accessed 15/11/2022

[4] Fédération Internationale de Football Association

[5] for example, the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.

[6] Wikipedia “World Anti-Doping Agency” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Anti-Doping_Agency Accesses 16/11/2022 

[7] Essentials of Sport Law, by Glenn M. Wong, Fourth Edition, Note 5.3.9

[8] Wikipedia ‘Match fixing” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Match_fixing accessed 15/11/2022

[9] CAS 2010/A/2172, UEFA v Oriekhov, para 54. CAS 2013/A/3062, UEFA v Sammut, para. 93; CAS 2014/A/3537 Vernon Manilal Fernando v FIFA, para. 82.

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About AUTHOR: Mr Oyetola Muyiwa Atoyebi, SAN CONTRIBUTOR: Joy Ayara

Mr Oyetola Muyiwa Atoyebi, SAN is the Managing Partner of O. M. Atoyebi, S.A.N & Partners (OMAPLEX Law Firm). Mr. Atoyebi has expertise in and vast knowledge of Arbitration Practice and this has seen him advise and represent his vast clientele in a myriad of high-level transactions. He holds the honour of being the youngest lawyer in Nigeria’s history to be conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He can be reached at atoyebi@omaplex.com.ng CONTRIBUTOR: Joy Ayara Joy is a member of the Corporate Team at OMAPLEX Law Firm. She also holds commendable legal expertise in Sport Law Practice She can be reached at joy.ayara@omaplex.com.ng