Law of Sports - Dispute Resolution
The legal community argues on pros and cons of arbitration. That said, we cannot undermine its benefits. It has become an accessible medium for resolving disputes in the sports sector. One can corroborate it by the fact that a specialized quasi-judicial body known as Court of Arbitration for the sport as has been established for the sole purpose of settling disputes. It came into effect in 1984 and had its headquarters in Switzerland with temporary courts organized across all Olympic host cities.
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
CAS derived its authority from the Code of Sports-related Arbitration and based on its primary functions; it has the following divisions:
- Ordinary Arbitration Division
- Appeals Arbitration Division
- Advisory opinion
According to the Code, CAS is required to constitute independent panels to investigate into sports-related disputes at hand. Though, these panels have the authority to interfere only if the disputing parties mutually agree to settle their conflict with the help of arbitration and enter into a binding arbitration agreement for the same. The parties have the right to choose the law they wish to apply to the facts of their case, however in case they fail to make this decision the Swiss law applies.
The Code lays down an exhaustive process to be followed by the parties as well as the arbitrators avoiding any confusion.
Stage 1: Written phase which revolves around the right of the parties to send a statement of claim to each party to the dispute and to reply to the same.
Stage 2: Post is exchanging the written submissions, the parties have to present their evidence (including expert witnesses) before the arbitration panel. Once the second stage begins, no additional claims to be put forward by way of written submissions.
Stage 3: The third stage has its basis on oral arguments. This stage is discretionary. As per the Code, if the Panel decides they have sufficient information to take a fair decision, they can waive off the third stage.
Keeping in mind the ever-evolving nature of sports, the Code also lays down specific provisions for an expedited procedure. The parties have the final say in deciding whether they want to try their case through this procedure. Even though the general method remains the same, the deadlines of every stage are within shorter timeframes.
The award of the arbitration panel is considered binding only if it made with majority consent. However, if the arbitrators fail to achieve a majority decision, the final decision lies in the hands of the President of the panel. The award has to be:
- briefly set out the reason(s)for the decision;
- Shall be signed by the entire committee.
In a recent case, Real Madrid Club de Fútbol v. FIFA, the famous football club Real Madrid filed a lawsuit before CAS to overturn the FIFA sanctions imposed on it for violating the FIFA regulations regarding transfer of minors. The plaintiff club contended that the sanctions imposed on the club,i.e., a fine, deduction of points from the group table, relegation to a lower division and ban from playing on a specific stadium was harsh in comparison to the fault committed. On the other hand, the defendant submits an argument that the sanctions are according to the behavior of the representatives of Real Madrid who tried avoiding entire responsibility. The case was first under the review of a sole arbitrator of the CAS. Upon looking at the merits of the case, the court was of the opinion that the imposed sanctions were appropriate and protection of the minors was the primary responsibility of each club.
The International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS)
With the changing dynamics of the sports industry, the dispute resolution procedure has also undergone various changes. One of such reforms was the establishment of the International Council of Arbitration for sport in 1994. The primary aim of establishing a separate international council was to promote transparency. ICAS performs the vital function of funding CAS and looking after its smooth functioning.
According to the Code, the President of ICAS would also hold the office of the President of CAS. The reason behind delegating the same person with all the power is to bridge the gap between the functioning of the separate arbitration bodies. While CAS is responsible for settling disputes, ICAS manages the responsibility of funding the whole process of dispute resolution to keep the machine running.
ICAS helps to maintain transparency by assisting in the selection of CAS arbitrators. In line with the Code, it is mandatory for all arbitrators to be well versed with all the laws related to sports and should have the capability to be fair arbitrators. The International Olympic Committee of various sports federations can suggest a potential candidate. However, the final say lies with the ICAS.
The mechanism to settle disputes is crucial regardless of the industry in which it is operating. Institutions like CAS and ICAS not only help rapid settlement of conflicts but also aid in the strict enforcement of sports law.
In the first article related to Law of Sports, as a person not related to the sports background, the author was skeptical whether sports law as an independent field of law is just a matter of academic knowledge or does it, in reality, hold relevance in a regular person’s day to day life. However, working on this paper has substantially changed the author’s perspective towards sports law as an independent legal discipline. The law governing sports might be young, but it not only regulates a multi-billion-dollar industry influencing the lives of people across the world but also assists to keep the essence of games alive. The perception of the law of sports as practice majorly depend upon the opinions of people who regularly practice it. Fundamentally, in the past decade, sports law has received acknowledgment as worthy of importance in the present.
The evolvement of the law of sports has conceivably broad ramifications for the improvement of national and international laws as well as international dispute resolution, which frequently are not perceived. Additionally, legal scholars should be aware of judicial decision for sports-related cases and may provide the seed that grows into statute with the more extensive application.
Article R45, The Code of Sports-related Arbitration
Article R44, The Code of Sports-related Arbitration
Article 44.2, The Code of Sports-related Arbitration
 CAS 2016/A/4785