The Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is an independent, quasi-judicial body which resolves sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation and provides advisory opinions on legal questions relevant to sport.

During major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, CAS also sets up non-permanent tribunals to hear disputes connected with these events and deal with anti-doping violations.

Created in 1984 and answerable to the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), it is head-quartered in Lausanne, Switzerland and has offices in Sydney and New York offices. CAS has nearly 300 arbitrators from 87 countries with specialist arbitration and sports law knowledge and around 300 cases are registered by CAS every year.

Types of disputes

The CAS can deal with any disputes submitted to it which are directly or indirectly connected to sport. The scope of the cases it hears can therefore be wide ranging and include anything from commercial disputes regarding sponsorship agreements or contractual provisions in a sportsperson’s contract to issues such as doping allegations faced by individual athletes.

Sanctions handed down by worldwide governing bodies to their members are often also challenged before CAS, such as a football club being handed a transfer ban by the worldwide governing body of football – FIFA.

To bring a dispute before CAS, a body must be an individual or a legal entity with capacity to act and which is involved in the sporting context. This is a wide ranging definition meaning the following bodies and individuals may apply to the CAS to settle a sporting dispute:

  • individual athletes;
  • clubs;
  • sports federations;
  • the organising committee’s behind sporting events;
  • sponsors of sporting events and sporting federations;
  • television companies who own or who wish to own the rights to certain sporting contexts.

Submission rules

For a dispute to be submitted to CAS, the parties must have agreed in writing that if a dispute arises this can be referred to the CAS. This written agreement will often be found within the statutes or regulations of a sporting organisation or in the contracts between the organisation and its member associations.

Often the agreement will exist prior to the dispute arising in one of the above scenarios. However, if there is not an agreement as such before a dispute arises both parties can agree in writing that they will submit the dispute to the CAS.

Procedures

The procedures CAS uses to settle disputes will depend on the dispute placed in front of it. For example if a dispute concerns contractual relations or a civil tort, the normal arbitration procedure involved with this area of the law will be applied by the CAS. If the dispute is concerned with a decision taken by a sporting body, the CAS appeals arbitration procedure will be available.

Once an arbitration request is filed with CAS, the respondent submits a reply and, after any additional exchange of statements of case, the parties are summoned to a hearing to be heard, produce evidence and argue their case. The final award is communicated to the parties some weeks
later.

Applicable law

When the parties agree in writing to submit the dispute to the CAS, they will usually also then decide which jurisdiction of law will apply to the proceedings. If the parties cannot agree or if they do not state which law should be applicable, CAS will apply Swiss law.

Scope of CAS awards

An arbitral award pronounced by the CAS is final and binding on the parties from the moment it is communicated. It may in be enforced in accordance with the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards, to which more than 125 countries are signatories.

Appeals

There are limited grounds to appeal a decision of the CAS to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. These are:

  • lack of jurisdiction;
  • violation of elementary procedural rules;
  • incompatibility with public policy.