Alternative Dispute Resolution

Role of Arbitration in Resolution of Sports Disputes

By Manvee

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The valuation of the Global Sports Market is around $388.3 Billion in the year 2020, which saw a surge at a CAGR of 3.4% since the year 2015. In the year 2019, the valuation of the Global Sports Market was $458.8 billion but due to the Covid19 pandemic and lockdown worldwide Global Sports Market saw a decline of -15.4% in the year 2020. But this Global Sports Market is expected to reach $599.9 Billion by the year 2025 and $826.0 Billion by the year 2030. So, from these data, it is evident that how much potential the Sports market carries worldwide and will generate a lot of revenue from the sporting businesses. And it is a well-known fact that where there is a business or commercial activity, a dispute is going to arise there and for resolving these disputes,  a proper dispute mechanism comes into force. Moreover, the profession of sport is short-lived because the retirement age of the Sports Personnel is less as compared to the other working professionals so it’s a fact that if sports person enters into litigation for resolution of disputes, then it may cost them their whole career as litigation is time-consuming and also costly.

These days Alternative Dispute Resolution is the most preferred methodology for the resolution of disputes. Alternative Dispute Resolution includes Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation & Conciliation. Here in this blog, we are going to talk about the role of Arbitration in the resolution of Sporting Disputes. Before starting further, I would like to give a brief introduction about what do we mean by arbitration? Basically, Arbitration is an Out of Court settlement where the parties to the dispute choose the arbitrator(s) mutually to act as an adjudicator for the dispute and the decision of the arbitrator is final and binding on the dispute.

Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

In the year 1984 in Lausanne, Switzerland Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) was established to resolve the Sports-related Disputes arising in the International Arena via means of Arbitration and Mediation. For the appointment of members and amendment of the statutes governing the Court of Arbitration for Sports, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is responsible and henceforth it led to the establishment of the International Council of Arbitration for Sports (ICAS) which is supreme to Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and acts as an Administrative and Financial Authority. Also, the Court of Arbitration for Sports decision is final and binding upon the parties to the dispute if they fall under the jurisdiction of CAS.

According to the Code of Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS has Jurisdiction over all sports-related disputes be it direct or indirect manner as long as the parties to the disputes have a valid arbitration agreement. Another important thing that needs to be noted here is that any sporting organization such as BCCI or any Sports person can approach this court for resolving their dispute. The recent dispute of an Indian athlete Dutee Chand was resolved by CAS.

The disputes at CAS can be categorized into 2 categories:

  • Disciplinary Disputes
  • Commercial Disputes

Starting with the Disciplinary disputes, it mostly deals with the cases related to doping, violence, racism, etc. In these disciplinary disputes, the sports authorities which govern the event or that particular sport takes disciplinary action against the offender/player and here CAS works as an appellate court over these organizations. When there is a foreign arbitral agreement and the player has exhausted all his/her domestic remedies in their country then only their case can be admitted at CAS. Another category is Commercial Disputes which includes disputes related to the execution of contracts like media rights, broadcasting rights, merchandising & licensing for sports events, Agency relationships between athletes, clubs, coaches & agents, disputes regarding civil liabilities such as accidents of athletes in a competition.

Sports Arbitration Centre of India (SACI)

On September 26th, 2021 India got its 1st Sports Arbitration Centre for resolving Sports-related Disputes. It was inaugurated by present Law Minister Kiren Rijiju in Gujarat. At the inauguration ceremony, Kiren Rijiju saidThe SACI will have far reaching impact for the sports sector of India by creating a reputation and establishing credibility for itself through the provision to settle disputes and other issues and concerns of the sports sector in a fast, transparent and very accountable manner.”

Historically, India never had sports jurisprudence to support its athletes and govern the sports in a dedicated manner. If we look into the history of sports disputes of India, Athletes who went to the courtroom for resolution of their disputes came back disheartened most of the time, ultimately leading to the loss of their time and money, and time is one of the most crucial factors in the life of a sportsperson, as a career in sports is of only a few years. Narsingh Yadav & Dutee Chand were the athletes who had a distressful wait due to involvement in disciplinary disputes. And from their involvement in their disputes, it became evident that they need to wait for a long before the judiciary to compete again in the field. All the athletes have hopes that their issues should be heard before the competent authorities regardless of the verdicts.

The prominent issue which SACI aims to look after is Access to Justice for Athletes. SACI will help the athletes to get speedy justice in their disputes because having pending legal disputes before the courtroom ongoing with wide media coverage is a sort of mental distraction which ultimately affects the performance of the athlete and may lead to the downfall of his or her career. Another important concern which SACI will be looking into is the Time Factor i.e., a long duration is taken to address the issues of the athletes. For any active Sportsperson, time lost during his career and opportunity to compete in events revoked creates havoc on their career prospect.

One of the Highlights of SACI is ‘Specialists at Work’ i.e., SACI will use the specialists to arbitrate the disputes of the athletes, although right now there is not much clarity about the hierarchy mechanism and the working at SACI. But it’s a commendable move by using specialized arbitrators to resolve the disputes accordingly. SACI has collaborated with Transtadia Pvt. Ltd. to provide the list of all the arbitrators who will be looking towards the disputes. The company will be providing a forum and all the necessary facilities for the commencement of arbitral proceedings which will be governed under the International Sports Law.

Transtadia founder and Managing Director Udit Sheth said, “The SACI will list out a few known arbitrators who are independent and it has nothing to do with the company. Those arbitrators can be listed out and paid directly by the disputing parties and settle the issues. We only provide this center and the process, so that it goes through a process, which is governed under the international laws of sports.

Why is Sports Arbitration Important?

  1. Speedy Resolution of Disputes
  2. Transparency
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Expertise
  1. Speedy Resolution of Disputes – It is one of the key features of any arbitration proceedings that’s the reason why arbitration is most preferred by sports persons over litigation. Litigation is time-consuming which takes years to give a decision for a single case whereas, in arbitration, a matter can be resolved within weeks or in a few months.
  2. Transparency – In order to achieve a fair trial in all matters, authorities try to maintain as much transparency as they can in the arbitral proceedings.
  3. Confidentiality – The arbitrators and the staff members present at the arbitral proceedings are obligated not to disclose  any information regarding the arbitration proceedings.
  4. Expertise – In the arbitration proceedings, the arbitrators are of various niches having hands-on expertise and experience in that field. Suppose that there arises a dispute regarding football then here the arbitrator who will be commencing the proceeding will be practicing arbitrator of Football niche and not any other sports activity. This helps the athletes to resolve their dispute in a better manner as a specialized arbitrator can resolve the dispute in a more simplified manner which isn’t a case with the Judges of the Courtroom.

Conclusion

The Indian Judicial system is a bit complex in nature and most time-consuming, career of a sportsperson is short-lived, so if they get into a dispute then they need a quick resolution methodology for resolving that dispute. Arbitration is preferred due to its effective and speedy resolution mechanism and when combined with sports, it becomes a deadly combo. The Indian judicial process doesn’t seem to have understood that judges can’t adjudicate the matters in the shortest possible time which comes before them that’s why the Sports Arbitration Centre of India came into the light to act as a savior for the sports personnel. Injuries can always be regarded as a part of the game but even a slight delay in the delivery of justice is non-excusable and non-negotiable.


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