Sports Arbitration is becoming a popular subfield in arbitration with an ever-growing number of cases being registered at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (the “CAS”).
The CAS was created in 1984 as a part of the International Olympic Committee, with the idea of solving a rising number of sports conflicts. It is placed under the administrative and financial authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (“ICAS”). With its seat in Lausanne, Switzerland, the CAS also has offices in New York, USA and Sydney, Australia.
Colloquially known as a Supreme Court for sports disputes, since its establishment, the CAS has registered some 5,000 arbitration proceedings, with approximately 200 new registered cases per year. In 2016, the CAS registered a record number of more than 600 arbitrations. Today, the CAS has nearly 300 arbitrators from 87 countries to rule on disputes.
The CAS has its own Procedural Rules, whose latest edition is in force as of 1 January 2017 . The Rules provide for a self-contained regime and organize almost all practical aspects of arbitral proceedings. They are similar to other arbitration rules, with one particularity, which is an appeals mechanism at the CAS. The relevant provision, R-47, of the CAS Procedural Rules states:
An appeal against the decision of a federation, association or sports-related body may be filed with CAS if the statutes or regulations of the said body so provide or if the parties have concluded a specific arbitration agreement and if the Appellant has exhausted the legal remedies available to it prior to the appeal, in accordance with the statutes or regulations of that body.
An appeal may be filed with the CAS against an award rendered by the CAS acting as a first instance tribunal, if such an appeal has been expressly provided by the rules of the federation or sports-body concerned.
For disputes resulting from contractual relations or torts, ordinary arbitration procedures or mediation applies. Furthermore, a standard appeal against CAS decisions is only allowed on limited grounds to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, for example in case of a lack of jurisdiction, violation of an elementary procedural rule or incompatibility with public policy. Otherwise, the award pronounced by the CAS is final and binding and may be enforced like any other arbitral award pursuant to the New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards.
While the CAS maintains a list of arbitrators based on nationality, and many of them can be considered as specialists in the area of sport, there are also practitioners and arbitrators active in commercial and investment cases.
In its 34 years existence, the CAS has also developed an extensive arbitral jurisprudence, and while its awards are not considered as binding legal precedents, they are regarded as highly persuasive and authoritative precedent by subsequent tribunals.
To assist practitioners, and arbitrators, the CAS has periodically published many of its awards. One of the first publications was a three-volume digest by Matthieu Reeb (Digest of CAS Awards Volume l, Bern (1998) and Volumes II & III, The Hague (2002 and 2004). However, the CAS’s decisions are increasingly available online in CAS bulletins and an online database available on its website.
It seems like sports arbitration, in particular the system developed at the CAS, has proven to be a fast, reliable and successful method of resolving sports disputes. The numbers of cases registered each year is rapidly growing, hopefully, CAS, still a rather small institution, will not decrease the quality of its awards.