Sporting Chance: Dispute Resolution in a Day

  • May 09, 2015
  • By Hunters Law

Yes, you read that heading correctly.  Most lawyers would regard the prospect of resolving a dispute within a day of it arising as entirely delusional but this is not that unusual – in sports law.  If the right of an athlete to compete in Olympic Games is challenged, that dispute needs to be resolved before the next round of the competition, not months after the Olympics have ended and the tracks are long since deserted.  So how are sporting disputes resolved, in sports as diverse as athletics, Formula 1 racing and football?  And why can the procedure be so quick?

The answer is simple: arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.  All sports are governed in some form or other by regulations, whether at national or international level.  And these regulations will usually require athletes, teams and governing bodies to agree to submit their disputes to arbitration.  Likewise, sports related contracts will usually contain such a written arbitration clause.  Sports arbitration has the advantage that it delivers quick, cost effective and binding decisions through an independent panel of typically either one or three experts in a private dispute resolution process.

Take an example: pursuant to the Olympic charter, all disputes in connection with the Olympic Games must be submitted to the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) with permanent seat in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Ad hoc divisions of CAS are set up in current Olympic host cities.  CAS deals with around 400 new cases every year.  These cases can range from commercial disputes about sponsorship contracts to disciplinary challenges in doping cases.  All Olympic International Federations have recognised the jurisdiction of CAS for at least some disputes.  Likewise, all signatories to the 2009 World-Antidoping Code (including the Olympic International Federations and National Olympic Committees) have recognised the jurisdiction of CAS for anti-doping rule violations.  Decisions of CAS can be appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

Very occasionally, this system breaks down: such as when (in simplified terms) German speed skater Claudia Pechstein exhausted the procedures before CAS, lost a subsequent appeal to the Swiss Federal Court, but then nevertheless proceeded to make a further application to the German national courts which rendered a decision which was arguably not only incompatible with the prior decisions rendered by CAS and by the Swiss courts but also contrary to the rules to which Ms Pechstein had submitted as an athlete.

In Formula 1, FIA and the racing teams established a similar dispute resolution system, requiring arbitration before a body known as the Contract Recognition Board.  In football, the FIFA laws and regulations establish the Players’ Status Committee and the Dispute Resolution Chamber to adjudicate on disputes.  Decisions of these FIFA bodies may be appealed to CAS.  In the UK, Sports Resolutions provides sports specific arbitration and mediation services and operates the National Anti-Doping Panel.

The good news for all those amongst us who are not professional athletes, is that arbitration and mediation are also available for ordinary day-to-day civil and commercial disputes through a wide range of service providers.  Give it a try and save yourself a lot of time and money.

This article was originally published in Discover Germany and can be found here.

Gregor Kleinknecht

Hunters incorporating May, May & Merrimans

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