The article 'Arbitration in Sports' navigates through the mechanisms of sports arbitration, elucidating the procedures.

The article 'Arbitration in Sports' navigates through the mechanisms of sports arbitration, elucidating the procedures, governing bodies, and key principles that guide the resolution process.


CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) located at Lausanne, Switzerland is considered as the leading judicial organ that deals with the disputes associated with sports. Today, arbitration remains the main method for settling sports disputes due to CAS providing both a single procedure system and a huge number of public legal cases.

Since the formation of CAS, Sports arbitration has enjoyed tremendous growth and come to be well-defined with its unique rules and procedures. Undoubtedly, the rapid growth of the sports markets in recent times could not avoid the increased incidence of conflicts amongst players or teams. Changes have taken place in the composition and caseload of the CAS since its establishment thirty years ago. Sports and Law have converged as a result of the process of internationalisation of sports and commercialization within the realm of sports that enables sports globally.

In the last couple of decades, growth has been witnessed within the world’s sporting industry predominantly due to its immense commercial value attained through a few selected games. Thus, there has been a paradigm shift from sports only seen as recreations towards the new realization that they are also businesses. As a result, it is no surprise that such an issue generates immense legal issues that should be resolved promptly to have working institutions capable of handling this sensitive subject.

Sports arbitration is among those other sectors that lean much more toward a dispute-resolution system based on arbitration. It includes making sports-related disputes a tribunal’s job whose decision is binding and final. Sports arbitrations are similar to arbitrations in other industries apart from the type of disputes they tackle. The core procedures of arbitration are largely similar regardless of the setting, but sports arbitrations have a distinct set of challenges that are missing from other types of arbitrations. Just like most commercial arbitrations, sports arbitrations exhibit some similar features including venue neutrality, procedural flexibility, and employing special persons.

Nevertheless, these arbitrations are different from the ones subjected to the New York Convention by having their own rules and regulations established by various governing bodies of sporting activities in case of a dispute. As a result, sports arbitration verdicts are enforced differently as compared to the awards handed out for commercial and financial arbitration.

Evolution of Sports Policy and Development Initiatives in India

Sports are not regulated by either the central government or any state in India. To build the infrastructure and enhance skill development in inclusive sports, the Government of India created the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Additionally, it provides support to Indian athletes’ success in both national and international sports competitions. NSFs are autonomous entities whose mandate includes the propagation of sports at the national frontier. The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs intermittently issues circulars and guidelines relating to regulating NSFs.

Since its independence, political authorities in India have always initiated ways that will stimulate games as well as the development of sports. Established various organizations such as the Tara Chand Committee (1948), the Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur coaching scheme (1953), and the All Indian Council of Sports (1954). For instance, Lakshmibai College of Physical Education (1957), the National Fitness Corps (1965)) and the National Plan for Physical Education and Recreation (1956). Despite their economic problems, Delhi hosted the first Asia Games in 1951.

In India, Sports are governed by the following bodies:

  • Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
  • Sports Broadcasting Laws and Regulations
  • The Sports Authority of India, and
  • The National Sports Federations

Maintaining Fairness and Integrity: The Importance of Sports Arbitration

Litigation can be too slow to resolve disputes in sports, so people opt for arbitration. The process of litigation takes a long and it could take years for one lawsuit yet in arbitration it can take weeks even months for a resolution.

During this process, authorities seek to be as transparent as possible to provide equal opportunities for hearings for all stakeholders.

All the arbitrators, as well as all personnel who are present during the hearing, should ensure that they keep all information obtained during the arbitration proceedings under a cloak of secrecy at all times.

Arbitrators, who listen to various fields of knowledge, are highly learned and qualified ones. The proceedings can only be initiated about football by an arbitrator experienced in that specific matter. An unbiased arbitrator can help sportsmen settle their disputes more swiftly and easily compared to a judge in a typical courtroom.

Skilled Arbitrators: Sports arbitration involves a panel of experienced individuals in sports law and regulations with a deep knowledge of the complex laws and traditions that are aimed at making fair settlements within the shortest time possible.

Efficiency: Sports arbitrations are usually more affordable and less time-consuming compared to regular litigations thus making them appropriate in most sports which can result in the ending of careers, alteration of team dynamics, disrupting events etc.

Confidentiality: Sports arbitration proceedings are normally maintained on a private basis to ensure privacy during matters like doping allegations, disciplinary actions and contract discussions.

Neutrality: There are arbitrators – independent officers whose duty is to make sure that the dispute resolution between athletes coming from different legal regimes (especially across national borders) takes place fairly and impartially. This becomes particularly important whenever such matters supersede national boundaries.

Sports Arbitration goes well beyond National Boundaries: Several international tribunals, such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), act as guarantors towards developing a fully universal scheme for world sports arbitration.

Arbitrator Awards are binding on all Parties Involved: Arbitrator awards are usually conclusive on everyone involved including the athletes, sports organizations and other stakeholders such that they have to stick to the decisions passed by the arbitrator as a means of adhering to the norms of the process of settling disputes. This also fosters compliance and conclusiveness.

Transparency and Accountability: For the sake of privacy, arbitration proceedings are mostly confidential but decisions often come into light upon their publication. Such transparency assists in preserving trust within the sports industry by informing relevant parties on why particular decisions have been made.

Appeal Process: Despite this finality for the outcomes of arbitration, there is a small scope where an award may be appealed for instance when there is procedural irregularity or absence of jurisdiction. This has made it possible to ensure that there is fairness, as well oversight of this system by offering those concerned with another level of inspection before the final judgement declaration for the matter.

Arbitration can be Cost-Effective: Arbitration is cheaper than taking a case to court, and it eliminates many time-consuming preliminaries.

Consistency and Uniformity: Sports arbitration helps to maintain integrity and consistency in enforcing rules among all other sports competitions.

Sports Arbitration Benefits All Stakeholders: Arbitration provides a means of resolving disputes between athletes, teams, coaches, officials and other key players in the sports industry including investors.

Maintaining Integrity of Sports: Through sports arbitration, fairness in sports is maintained as it provides an effective and orderly procedure for tackling internal sports disputes under sports-based rules and law.

Categories of Disputes

Only if the parties have an arbitration agreement that includes CAS recourse may a dispute be filed to the CAS. The CAS may be taken in either English or French. The CAS may, in theory, hear different kinds of disputes that cover a broader range of sports-related disputes such as

1. those related to business, and

2. those related to discipline.

The first commercial category pertains to disputes that involve sponsorship deals, television rights sales, sports events organization, player trades, and employment and representation agreements (agency contract and employment contract). An instance of a case, in which civil liability disputes can arise, is just sports-related injuries. It is the highest instance where disputes related to businesses are dealt with.

Disciplinary: Most of these cases are regarding sanctions and the bulk of them relate to doping. In addition, it should be noted that CAS’s jurisdiction includes not only doping but also other disciplinary issues such as on-field or abuse of a referee. Thereafter, an appeal always goes to the CAS which acts like a final court. Normally, appropriate sports governing bodies always hear and make rulings concerning disciplinary matters before going to the CAS.

In that respect, its statutes and arbitration rules govern, namely, statutes of the bodies working for sports-related settlement, codes of arbitration and mediation rules. Article of the code stipulates that all decisions made under the federal rule or in any club should be appealable according to articles S12, S20, R27, and R47. In the same manner, article R57 empowers the panels of CAS to authorise substitution of what was decided by the giving body, re-remands the suit to the issuing entity for more considerations of review, or invalidate the suit altogether. Additionally, Article R58 allows the Panel to resort to

the law of the country in which the federation, association or sport-related body which has issued the challenged decision is domiciled or according to the rules of law the Panel deems appropriate

Hence, the panels can rule based on laws that are not applicable in a specific state but common grounds of law or principles of law.

Before a court of arbitration can exercise its jurisdiction over a particular matter, the parties to that matter must consent to it. Currently, international federations and the majority of the national Olympic committees’ statutes refer all disputes to CAS for determination through an arbitration provision. The CAS handles about 200 cases every year. The establishment of the CAS is a result of the international community’s responsive approach to escalating the use of drugs in sports as well as disputes surrounding sponsorship, competition results, and eligibility of athletes. Many years later, the CAS spends most of its time answering doping case queries.

Court of Arbitration for Sport

In 1962, CAS arose as an international arbitration court for solving disputes in sports among athletes, sporting organizations and their opponents of different nationalities. The proceedings for Indian arbitration at CAS are usually well-established, in this regard, for resolving disputes involving sports.

CAS is located in Lausanne Switzerland and it works as a neutral place where athletes, sporting organizations or any governing body may address different sports challenges. CAS has a reputation for being a specialist in sports law and regulation. This is mostly regarding complicated sports matters like drugs, contract disputes, penalties and eligibility that become a dispute.

CAS has a highly qualified panel of arbitrators comprising experts in matters relating to sport and law, and their rulings consider all specific issues arising in each particular case. The swift, effective, and confidential arbitration process they have ensures very short resolution periods for athletes and sporting events disputes.

CAS has an advantage in that it is international, which makes parties from various countries opt for arbitration in this neutral platform. In many cases, decisions made by the court of arbitration at the CAS ensure enforceability against all jurisdictions with a view of forcing compliance not only about the CAS results but any ensuing arbitration.

Apart from resolving conflict issues in sports, the Court of Arbitration for Sport is a vital aspect in ensuring honesty and responsibility in the field. While maintaining secrecy in her proceedings, publishing decisions can be regarded as an instrument which assists in preserving integrity and allows her to explain the reasons for certain decisions rendered. In total, CAS is an international organisation that maintains fairness in ethical standards and laws among sportsmen. It gives reliability and confidence to the whole world in its international sports business.

Athletes, clubs or associations in India may resort to CAS arbitration for their disputes because the latter provides a neutral approach to deciding on conflicts to avoid biases. Most of the time, CAS provides that an arbitrator should be an expert in sports law and regulation and this is for a party to hear its case well. The moment they are appointed, these arbitrators assess the pieces of evidence, hear arguments and judge by international sports law and some state laws or any other applicable regulation.

Many courts worldwide regard CAS decisions as arbitrators in such matters thereby validating it as an international arbitral court in Indian sports affairs. The CAS also deals with disputes ranging from football, basketball and tennis among other disciplines in the Olympic games.

The court of arbitration for sport operates through ad hoc arbitration which is when the court comes in session when needed. If necessary, parties can agree to refer their dispute to CAS or can be compelled to do so by the sport’s rules or the national governing body. These include ordinary hearings conducted by the Court of Arbitration for Sports through oral pleadings and written submissions, speedy proceedings designed to resolve urgent issues quickly, and appeals from decisions emanating from sports tribunals.

Authority of Award passed by the Court of Arbitration

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is highly regarded, and its decisions have profound significance. Their decisions are generally binding and enforceable and their authority spans multiple key aspects:

Awards issued by the Court of Arbitration for Sport are usually regarded as definitive. In the case of parties which are engaging in a sports-related dispute, they submit themselves to CAS’s jurisdiction; they accept and obey all the decisions made by the CAS since these will be used to ensure that the dispute is finally resolved.

CAS awards are recognized and respected across international federations and national governing bodies of sports. CAS awards often prove to be beneficial as references within the regulatory frameworks for decision-making.

Legal Enforceability: These decisions are lawful because they attract judicial award that is honoured in many jurisdictions and gives international legal recognition. They are usually followed by courts without delay. Such international recognition ensures that these CAS awards are confirmed, binding, and implemented.

Upholding Sports Integrity: Sports are maintained by principles of justice and fair play, which CAS works towards ensuring through a fair and independent dispute settlement mechanism. This ideal is enhanced by their awards.

Consistency and Expertise: The arbitrator of every CAS panel is experienced in sports legislation; their award decisions are based on sound legal practices. Parties are assured that their cases will be judged by experts conversant with sports issues and their complexities.

Case Laws

1. Ajay Jadeja v. Union of India, 95 (2002) DLT 14

The suit by Ajay Jadeja against the Union of India marked the introduction of modern-day sports legislation. These include the issue of ethics in the game, the lack of a coherent investigation and how it should be handled as well as the status of the complainant. This precedence showed that a High Court has writ jurisdiction over sports organisations as they have a public character.

2. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) v. Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) & Ors., (Civil Appeal No. 4235 of 2014)

The Hon'ble Supreme Court asked for the views of the Law Commission in July 2016 if BCCI is any Governmental Authority. Therefore, the Law Commission in 275 reports stated that BCCI should fall under the control of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Thus, the Commission found out that it was not only appropriate but also mandatory for the Commission to acknowledge the BCCI as a “state” within the sense of Article 12 of the Constitution. If the Commission’s proposals are adopted and BCCI is treated as a public trust or body under the RTI Act then the BCCI would be open for scrutiny by way of PIL in Supreme Court/High Courts in respect of such different concerns.


For this reason, there should be a conducive environment for developing the sport while anticipating the needs of the members of such a community including the possible resolutions in case of disputes. While the Indian sports industry shows signs of progress, it is yet to reach the level of supervision by regulatory requirements imposed on developed countries like the EU. Indian legal profession has been very conservative concerning the wider application of arbitration. Notably, there have been considerable improvements in India over the last few years and this has beneficially affected the stance of the Supreme Court towards arbitration. SACI (System of Autonomous Collective Intelligence) may play a major role if it is built on CAS rules. It has the potential to foster the development of sports arbitration in India.


[1] Sports Law in India: Present Status and Future Road Map, Available Here

[2] Everything You Need to Know about Sports Law in India, Available Here

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Sanjoli Verma

Sanjoli Verma

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