The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was established for the purpose of resolving sports disputes “within the family of sport”. It is a global and non-governmental institution which provides extra-judicial resolution of sports disputes based in Lausanne, Switzerland. CAS was found in 1984 by a Spanish sports administrator and then president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Juan Antonio Samaranch (pictured), and Keba Mbaye, an International Olympic Committee member and Senegalese court judge.
This article outlines the numerous advantages which this highly specialised forum confers on those who submit their disputes to it.
Suitable for resolving international disputes
When parties to a dispute are based in different jurisdictions, numerous problems arise. The party seeking relief has to determine, which court has jurisdiction to hear the matter and thereafter, grapple with complex questions relating to the applicable law. Further, the foreign litigant must contend with the use of a foreign court language and an alien court procedure.
CAS arbitration removes many of these obstacles in the following manner: i) the CAS provides a single jurisdiction; ii) the parties are free to elect the applicable law; iii) the procedure is regulated by a universally applicable international code of sports-related arbitration; iv) except in special instances, the official court languages are English and French and; iv) arbitration awards wield better international effectiveness than ordinary court rulings because of international agreements that enjoin most countries to recognise and enforce arbitral awards.
CAS is tailor-made to resolve sports-related disputes
The settlement of sports-related disputes requires specific expertise which most ordinary court judges may not have. At the CAS, arbitrators are selected from a rich list of individuals appointed because of their mastery and specialised knowledge of issues connected with sports. Such personalities often guarantee the swift and effective settlement of disputes because their decisions are respected by the parties involved. Generally, such experts also render solutions that are adapted to the sporting context.
Simple and versatile
Unlike the courts which are usually bogged down by complex and rigid rules of procedure and evidence, the CAS’ procedural rules are simple and flexible. These rules are tailor-made to make the CAS readily accessible. An applicant can institute action by way of a simple application in which they are required to briefly set out reasons. Appellants merely have to file a simple statement of appeal in support of which they must subsequently provide reasons. A respondent is expected to do no more than explain his position in writing. Thereafter, the parties are summoned to attend an oral hearing where evidence is heard from witnesses and experts and counsel are heard in argument.
The parties are at liberty to select their preferred arbitrators from a panel published by the ICAS. As previously mentioned, the use of English and French makes it convenient for most parties. However, the parties have the latitude to agree to the use of any other language. This flexibility dispenses with the various problems associated with translation. Translation increases costs and slows down proceedings.
Moreover, parties may appear in person before the CAS or be represented by a person of their choice. This representative does not necessarily need to be a lawyer. Lawyers are notorious for complicating simple matters.
The need for speed in the resolution of disputes is more pressing in the sports world than anywhere else. The reasons are self-evident. Sports careers are relatively short and it is only fair that decisions be rendered while the athlete is still in peak condition. Similarly, an athlete may need to know the outcome of a dispute to enable them to participate in an upcoming event. They clearly cannot afford to await. Similarly, sports federations must be able to know the result of the dispute as quickly as possible to enable them to adjust or amend their rules without delay, if necessary.
The procedural rules enjoin arbitrators to deliver their ruling on appeal matters within four months from filing of the appeal.
The CAS ad hoc division is able to both constitute a panel and deliver a final decision within 24 hours. Talk of performance-enhanced justice!
It is a court of single instance
Invariably, most countries have numerous levels of jurisdiction. For instance, actions are instituted in the court of first instance. Thereafter, the disgruntled litigant is entitled to appeal to a court of appeal. In the final instance, a litigant can approach a constitutional court. This process can drag on for years. Sporting careers can even end before parties exhaust all these judicial remedies and the decision becomes final. Awards in the CAS are immediately final and enforceable. The applicable rules afford parties restricted possibilities of appeal.
Confidential and private
Court records are ordinarily accessible to the public and anybody can walk into the gallery to attend a hearing. CAS arbitration is private and is convened far from the madding crowd. In principle, the CAS hearings are not public and they are shielded from the prying eyes of the public and the media. Copies of the awards are only furnished to the parties. This confidentiality safeguards the privacy of all the parties involved and encourages amicable settlements.
One of the foremost objectives of the CAS is to provide the sporting fraternity with swift but affordable dispute resolution. Under the ordinary arbitration procedure, the parties are responsible for payment of the fees and expenses of the arbitrators. These fees and expenses are calculated in accordance with the CAS schedule. The parties are also liable for a share of the CAS costs and the costs of witnesses, experts and interpreters. In the appeals procedure, however, CAS itself pays the fees and expenses of the arbitrators and the CAS costs.
Over the years, CAS has gained the acceptance and confidence of the global sporting fraternity and is presently the forum of last instance for the determination of appeals brought by parties involved in a wide range of sporting disputes.