Big international sports meetings like this year’s FIFA football World Cup in Russia throw the mainstream spotlight not only onto competition between sportsmen and women, but also onto the processes designed to ensure fair play between them and, increasingly, onto protecting the business of sport.

Infamously, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a Dutch brewery incurred the wrath of the commercial rights holder, when it cynically (and successfully) attempted to capture the attention of the world’s media by getting 36 young women wearing orange mini-dresses into the stands for the Netherlands’ game against Denmark. The women were ejected from the stadium, FIFA launched an investigation, and the ITV pundit whose tickets had been used was reportedly sacked.

Not all sports disputes are so glamorous, of course. But many sporting conflicts arise in relation to highly valuable contracts of a purely commercial nature: from governing content and broadcasting rights to licences for merchandising to the development of stadia. As the business of sport continues to boom internationally, so does the scope for commercial disputes to arise in a sporting context. Arbitration offers the best option for resolving such conflicts.

Commercial disputes at the Court of Arbitration for Sport

While the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is perhaps best known for its headline-making decisions in the field of doping cases (and for major competitions it establishes expedited arbitral tribunals with an emphasis on being able to render decisions quickly), it also hears any kind of dispute with a direct or indirect link to a sport. This includes all manner of commercial sports disputes (for example under a sponsorship or licencing agreement), in addition to the appeals division that deals with appeals from decisions of sports’ governing bodies (including doping cases).

Jul-Sep 2018 issue

Norton Rose Fulbright LLP