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An estimated 10-minute read

Court of Arbitration for Sports

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Court of Arbitration for Sports             Author Name   – Jai Prakash Meena



Sport is big business accounting for more than 3 per cent of world trade and 1 per cent of the combined GNP of the 15 member states of the European Union (EU).[1] It is not surprising, therefore, with so much money at stake that sports disputes are also on the increase. For example, in the UK some 19 million sports injuries occur each year costing around £500 million in treatment and absence from work.[2] But sports disputes are not confined to personal injuries. They cover a wide range of claims, not least commercial ones relating to, inter alia, sports sponsorship, endorsement, licensing, merchandising, image rights and broadcasting arrangements – a rich seam for sports lawyers to work![3]

                        The Court of Arbitration for Sport, commonly known and referred to by the acronym CAS, is an arbitration body created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1983. It is also known by its French title, Tribunal Arbitral du Sport (TAS). It is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has two permanent branches in Sydney, Australia, and New York, USA. During the Olympic Games, it operates an ad hoc Division, which was first set up on 28 September 1995.[4]

The CAS has a minimum of 150 arbitrators from 37 countries, who are specialists in arbitration and sports law.[5] They are appointed for 4-year renewable terms and must sign a ‘letter of independence’ confirming their impartiality. The CAS also has a permanent President, Judge Keba Mbaye of Senegal, a former member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague.  CAS arbitrators are not generally obliged to follow earlier decisions or obey the sacred Common Law principle of ‘stare decisis’ (binding legal precedent).[6] The extent to which the CAS is contributing to a lex sportiva is one of the topics examined in an interesting article by Ken Foster in the Spring 2003 issue of Entertainment Law.[7] He argues that the CAS as an institutional forum is not yet ‘globally comprehensive’ but ‘has improved by becoming more independent of the International Olympic Committee and thus satisfying Teubner’s criterion of externalization, but it does not yet cover all sports’. The CAS is dedicated to hearing and settling any disputes directly or indirectly relating to sport, including commercial issues, for example, a dispute over a sponsorship contract. Any natural person, for example, an athlete, or legal person, or for example, a sports association or a company, may bring a case before the CAS. The parties must agree to do so in writing. It should also be mentioned that the working languages of the CAS are French and English and, in the absence of agreement between the parties, the CAS shall select one of the two languages as the language of the proceedings. The parties can choose another language provided the Court agrees, in which case the CAS may order the parties to pay all or part of the translation costs. [8] The CAS also offers non-binding ‘Advisory Opinions’ on potential disputes similar to the concept of ‘expert determination’ in the business world

The Remit of CAS

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is competent to resolve all types of disputes of a private nature relating to sport. Article R27 of the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (the Code) stipulates that the CAS has jurisdiction solely to rule on disputes connected with sport. Two categories of disputes may be distinguished: Disputes arising from all types of legal relations between parties in respect of which it has been decided to invoke a  CAS arbitration. For example, sponsorship, TV and athlete management contracts, and issues of civil liability. Disputes  arising from last instance decisions made by the tribunals of sports federations, when their statutes and regulations or a specific agreement provide for CAS jurisdiction. For example, disciplinary issues, in particular, doping, and decisions concerning the selection and eligibility of athletes. Parties involved in sports disputes generally have three possible ways of resolving them: appeal to the internal authorities created by the sports federations concerned, and/or take the disputes to the competent courts, or submit the disputes to private arbitration or mediation. It is important to point out that the regulations of sports federations cannot exclude an appeal of a dissatisfied member to external judicial authorities. Such provisions designed to oust the jurisdiction of the courts are void.[9] However, they can provide in their rules and regulations for parties involved in disputes to first exhaust all the internal remedies and appeal procedures before resorting to the courts.[10]

The Code of Sports-Related Arbitration

Since 22 November 1994, the new Code of Sports-related Arbitration (the Code) has governed the organization and arbitration procedures of the CAS.As such, the 69-article Code is divided into two parts: the Statutes of the bodies working for the settlement of sports-related disputes[11], and the Procedural Rules[12]. The Code provides for four specific procedures:

1. The ordinary arbitration procedure

2. The appeals arbitration procedure

3. The consultation procedure which allows certain sports entities to request advisory opinions from CAS

4. The mediation procedure (created in 1999)

The arbitration procedures are divided in two different phases: a written procedure with exchange of written submissions, and an oral procedure, the parties being heard by the arbitrators, usually at the CAS Headquarters in Lausanne.

The International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS)

The ICAS is the supreme organ of the CAS. It is a Foundation under Swiss Law. Its main task is to safeguard the independence of the CAS and the rights of the parties. To this end, it is responsible for the administration and financing of the CAS. The ICAS is composed of 20 members, all of whom must be high-level lawyers well acquainted with the issues of arbitration and sports law. Upon appointment, the ICAS members must sign a declaration undertaking to exercise their functions in a personal capacity, with total objectivity and independence. This means that under no circumstances can an ICAS member play any part in any proceedings before the CAS, either as an arbitrator or as counsel to a party. Any changes to the Code of Sports-related Arbitration can be decided only by a full meeting of the ICAS and, more specifically, a majority of two-thirds of its members. In other cases, a simple majority is sufficient, provided that at least half the ICAS members are present when the decision is taken.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

The CAS performs its functions through its arbitrators, of whom there are no less than 150, together with the assistance of its Court Office. One of the major new features following the reform of the CAS was the creation of two divisions: an ‘Ordinary Arbitration Division’, for sole-instance disputes submitted to the CAS, and an ‘Appeals Arbitration Division’, for disputes resulting from final-instance decisions taken by sports organizations. Each Division is headed by a President. The role of the Division Presidents is to take charge of the first arbitration operations once the procedure is under way and before the panels of arbitrators are appointed. The CAS Court Office

The CAS Court Office is located in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is headed by the Secretary General, assisted by a Counsel and two secretaries. The main task of the CAS Court Office is to supervise the arbitration and mediation procedures and to advise the arbitrators and the parties (procedure and case law). Other tasks performed by the CAS Court Office include the organization and preparation of the ad hoc Divisions, organization of seminars, and the promotion of the CAS generally.

CAS Mediation

In view of the increasing popularity and effectiveness of mediation in settling sports disputes, especially commercial and financial ones, a comment follows on the CAS mediation service. As previously mentioned, the CAS Mediation Rules were introduced on 18 May 1999. So CAS mediation is still very much in its infancy. Later, we will look at some of the first cases to be mediated by the CAS. As Ousmane Kane, First Counsel to the CAS and responsible for mediation remarks: ‘The International Council of Arbitration for Sport took the initiative to introduce these rules alongside arbitration. As they encourage and protect fair play and the spirit of understanding, they are made to measure for sport.’ CAS mediations enjoy all the benefits and advantages of mediation generally, which are well known, and also the particular benefits of sports mediations.

 CAS Advisory Opinions

Akin to mediation, the Advisory Opinions that CAS is able to render should also be mentioned. These are known as ‘Consultation Proceedings’ and are governed by articles R60–62 of the Procedural Rules of the CAS Code of Sports-related Arbitration. These Opinions may be given in relation to any legal issue with respect to the practice or development of sports or any activity related to sports. They are not legally binding. They are similar in concept to ‘expert determinations’ in the commercial world, but without the binding effect on the parties.

The Legal Status of CAS Awards

An arbitral award rendered by the CAS is final and binding on the parties from the time it is communicated to them. Like any other international arbitral award, it can be enforced according to the usual rules of private international law and, in particular, in accordance with the provisions of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 10 June 1958.If a party is dissatisfied with a CAS award, it is possible to challenge the award in Switzerland, where the CAS has its seat,[13] but only in the following limited circumstances under article 190(2) of the Swiss Federal Code on Private International Law  of 18 December 1987:

• if a sole arbitrator was designated irregularly or the arbitral tribunal was constituted irregularly;

• if the arbitral tribunal erroneously held that it had or did not have jurisdiction;

• if the arbitral tribunal ruled on matters beyond the claims submitted to it or if it failed to rule on one of the claims;

• if the equality of the parties or their right to be heard in adversarial proceeding was not respected;

• if the award is incompatible with Swiss public policy.



To date, it has proved to be a very popular and effective body for settling a wide range of sports disputes fairly, effectively, quickly and relatively inexpensively ‘within the family of sport’ rather than in the often hostile and costly environment of the ordinary courts. Its procedures are user friendly and flexible and most cases referred to it are settled within months rather than years. Its cases are varied and come from all over the sporting world, including the commercial side. In doing so, it is serving the needs of sport, which continues to be an ever-expanding global social and business phenomenon.

[1] Sport Unit, Directorate General for Education and Culture, European Commission, Brussels.

[2] T. Kevan, D. Adamson and S. Cottrell, Sports Personal Injury: Law and Practice (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2002).

[3] According to sports marketing industry figures, claims are constantly on the rise in terms of numbers and values in the multi-billion dollar global sports market.

[4] M. Reeb, ‘The Court of Arbitration for Sport’, Sports Law Bulletin 3/4 (2000), 10.

[5] At the present time there are 187 arbitrators.

[6] UCI v. J. 7 NCB, CAS 97/176 Award of 28 August 1998, 14.

[7] K. Foster, ‘Is There a Global Sports Law?’, Entertainment Law 2/1 (2003), 1–18.

[8] Rule 29 of the CAS Procedural Rules

[9] Baker v. Jones [1954] 2 All ER 553.

[10] Scott v. Avery [1856] 5 HL Cas 811.

[11] Articles S1 to S26

[12] Articles R27 to R69

[13] Anglea Raguz v. Rebecca Sullivan & Ors. A legal challenge against a CAS arbitral award was dismissed on grounds of lack of jurisdiction because the Court upheld the choice of Lausanne, Switzerland as the seat (i.e. place) of arbitration under the CAS Code of Sports-related Arbitration.

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