Cancellation of Sporting Events

In what cases can sporting events be moved or postponed?

The final decision on the venue and host for a sporting event will be taken by the body which operates the event which in most cases will be the Worldwide Governing Body for that particular sport. For example:

  • The Olympics – the final decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

  • The Football World Cup – the final decision will be made by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

  • The Cricket World Cup – the final decision will be made by the International Cricket Council (ICC)

Agreement signed with the Worldwide Governing Body

Once a county or city has been successful in the bidding process and has been awarded the right to host the event they will be required to sign an agreement outlining all aspects of the operation of the event.

Contained within this agreement will be a provision relating to the cancellation of the event in that country. In this respect it is usual that the International Governing Body will have an alternative host which will be able to undertake the hosting on short notice if required.

For what reasons can an event be cancelled or postponed?

A major sporting event could be cancelled or postponed for the following reasons:

  • Force majeure

  • Failure to hit all the requirements of hosting

  • Safety concerns

Force Majeure

What is meant by force majeure?

Force majeure is defined as an act of god or an act which is beyond the control of the event organisers. It often occurs due to adverse weather conditions or due to the occurrence of a natural disaster. In this case the event may be cancelled altogether, may be postponed and held in the same venue at a later date or postponed and moved to another venue or host nation and held at a later date.

The agreement between the host nation and the international governing body will include a clause which deals with force majeure. Often this will give the international governing body the right to cancel the agreement immediately.

All other contracts which are involved in the operation of the event will also include a force majeure clause. For example the contracts between the local organising committee (LOC) and the hotels providing the accommodation for the event will include a clause of this nature. There will even be a clause detailing what will happen in this instance in the general ticket terms and conditions which form the contract between the event organisers and the individuals attending the event.

Requirements of hosting

In the agreement signed between the host nation and the International Governing Body for the hosting of the event there will be minimum requirements which the host nation must adhere to which will also have formed a key aspect of the bidding process. For example the host nation may have to have a certain number of stadia ready for the hosting of the event by a certain date. If they fail to adhere to this there will be a clause within the contract detailing all the consequences of this failure.

This was an issue which many felt would become apparent for this summer’s football World Cup in South Africa.

Safety Concerns

Another reason which an event hosting in one country may be removed and hosting in another country is due to safety concerns both of the participants of the event but also the spectators attending the event.

For example the 2011 Cricket World Cup which was due to be held in Pakistan has now been scheduled to be held in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka due to the terrorist attack on a Sri Lankan convoy prior to a test match against Pakistan in 2008.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) thereby felt as the safety of the event in Pakistan could not be guaranteed then the event should be moved.

Is there a possibility for a legal challenge in relation to this?

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) feels that they were not given a chance to put across their point of view and that the three countries which are to host the tournament carry with them their own safety concerns.

As is the case with many International Governing Bodies of which the ICC is one, their decision may be the final in that particular sport but the parties involved with that decision do also have a further legal right out of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The PCB plan to take their case in front of the CAS to receive a final decision in this case.