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Prawo sportowe 09.04.2024

[Sports law] Is a dispute between an athlete, coach or agent with a club always resolved by a sports tribunal or arbitration court?

Resolving sports disputes: common courts or sports courts?

In many cases, the content of agreements and contracts between a player, coach or agent with a club includes arbitration clauses, according to which the parties submit all sports to a specific sports arbitration tribunal or sports arbitration court. In such cases, the parties undertake to resolve the matter through sports arbitration rather than in court.

However, a dispute between an athlete, coach or agent with a club does not always have to be resolved by a sports tribunal or arbitration court. The resolution of such a dispute may depend on many factors, such as the contract between the parties, the regulations of the league or sports federation, as well as applicable common law.

What is a sports dispute?

Dispute in sports law refers to any conflicts, misunderstandings or legal problems that may arise between different entities in the world of sports. These may be disputes between players and clubs, coaches and federations, players and decision-making bodies, or even between sports federations themselves.

Examples of disputes in sports law may include, but are not limited to, contractual disputes such as:

  • disputes over the payment of a player's or coach's basic salary,
  • disputes over the payment of bonuses due to a player or coach,
  • disputes over the payment of commission due to the agent,
  • sports for payment of compensation for breach of contract terms (contractual terms) - e.g. early termination of the contract.

In what cases will a sports dispute be resolved by a common court?

A sports dispute will not be resolved through sports arbitration in several cases:

  • the parties did not stipulate an arbitration clause,
  • the arbitration clause is invalid,
  • incidental cases in arbitration – e.g. exclusion of an arbitrator,
  • the tribunal or arbitration court designated by the parties has no jurisdiction to resolve such matters.

In what cases can an arbitration clause be considered invalid?

An arbitration clause may be deemed invalid in various situations, usually involving a violation of certain legal principles or standards. Here are some examples of situations in which an arbitration clause may be deemed invalid:

  • lack of actual consent of the parties: If one of the parties was not actually aware or did not give informed consent to arbitration, the clause may be considered invalid. For example, if the contract was signed under error, fraud or duress.
  • inconsistencies or contradictions in the contract: If an arbitration clause is unclear, imprecise or inconsistent with other provisions of the contract, it may lead to its invalidity.
  • violation of legal provisions: If the arbitration clause violates applicable legal provisions, for example provisions on equality of parties, procedural standards or prohibited clauses.
  • no agreement to arbitrate: Some jurisdictions require a clear and express agreement to arbitrate, and if the agreement does not include it or the manner in which it is expressed is questionable, the clause may be deemed invalid.
  • matters that are not subject to arbitration: There are certain categories of disputes that may be excluded from arbitration in accordance with legal provisions or principles of public policy.

Breach of the principle of equality of the parties in arbitration: If an arbitration clause would create inequality for the parties, for example by imposing arbitration on one party in an unfair or impermissible manner, this could lead to it being deemed invalid

Arbitration clause in sports - the example of CAS - the Court of Arbitration for Sport

The CAS Procedural Rules (CAS - Court of Arbitration for Sport / TAS - Tribunal arbitral du sport, Lausanne Tribunal of Arbitration for Sport) apply to all proceedings pending before CAS. However, proceedings before the CAS are, in principle, admissible when the parties have agreed to refer the sports dispute to the CAS. Such a reference may result from an arbitration clause contained in the contract or regulations or from a subsequent arbitration agreement (ordinary arbitration proceedings) or may consist, for example, in the statutes or regulations of these bodies or a specific contract provides for the possibility of appealing to the CAS (appellate arbitration proceedings). Such disputes may relate to matters of principle relating to sport or to matters relating to pecuniary or other interests relating to the practice or development of sport and may include, more generally, any activity or matter relating to or connected with sport. In other cases, CAS does not have jurisdiction to decide the sport.

A similar situation occurs in the case of other sports arbitration tribunals and representative arbitration courts: FIFA Football Tribunal, BAT - Basketball Arbitral Tribunal, and others.

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