Dispute resolution center: Sports Arbitration Comes to Thailand with TCAS
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which, along with mediation, offers greater flexibility, control, and expediency to parties in conflict. Arbitration has proven a valuable and equitable forum for many types of disputes. This includes conflicts arising in the world of sports for both professional and amateur athletes, teams, organizations including various sports associations as well.
With the rise in popularity of many different sports and the increasing interactions between athletes and relevant sporting entities, the risk of disputes could increase as well. Due to the unique nature of sports disputes, arbitration presents a much better option than litigation for many reasons. This includes focused expertise from a dispute resolution center dedicated to sports arbitration, such as the recently established Thailand Center of Arbitration for Sport (TCAS).
Why is arbitration needed in sports?
The benefits of arbitration over litigation could be seen as magnified when it comes to sports:
- Privacy and confidentiality: Athletes, coaches, and teams are often in the public eye, so they would value the privacy and confidentiality afforded them in the arbitration process, avoiding media scrutiny. This is unlike court litigation, where, very often, trials and hearings, as well as court documents, are open to the public. In the arbitration proceedings, what we will see is this process that is the official statement of the athletes or clubs about those disputes when the processes are over.
- Expediency: Both professionals and amateurs can feel time pressure when they are subject to a dispute. If parties are tied up in lengthy litigation proceedings, they miss out on opportunities to compete. And since many athletic careers are not known as long-lived, every lost chance to play may significantly impact their lifetime performance.
- Case Value: Another important issue is the dispute over the matter of winning and losing cases. If using a court process that will last longer. The value of those victories may be lost. But if it is freckled on the arbitration, there will be a definite approach and promptly to value those victories.
- Expertise: Sports contracts can be as nuanced and complex as any multinational trade agreement. Compound the clauses and terms of a contract with the intricate rules and regulations of a sport or a sports association, and the legal expertise of a national court judge may be wanting in terms of adjudicating a sports-related dispute. Arbitration proceedings allow parties to appoint arbitrators experienced in the technicalities of contracts and sports to help facilitate a smooth and judicious resolution.
- Finality and enforceability: Arbitration clauses in sports-related agreements tend to establish that any resulting award or decision is binding and final. Appeals are possible, but because of arbitration’s less adversarial process, when compared to litigation, this is usually not pursued. Furthermore, while many jurisdictions have a disparate conflict of laws and legislation, making enforcing a litigation judgment difficult, many countries have ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958), making it much easier to enforce an arbitral award.
Growth of sports globally and in Thailand led to disputes
As mentioned above, more sports events are on the international stage and often require an independent third party, such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) or the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), to step in, analyze, and expedite decisions to avoid interrupting potentially promising athletic careers.
The examples of sports arbitration in action are wide-ranging. In February 2022, a dispute between the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee against the Russian anti-doping agency regarding a Russian figure skater was resolved by the CAS, whose ruling allowed the skater to compete at the Beijing Olympics. In July 2022, the LCIA arbitrated a dispute between the F1 team Williams and its sponsor ROKiT, finding the team and awarding them over US$35 million when the sponsor sued for breach of contract. In October 2021, the Derby County football club appealed the English Football League’s decision to impose a penalty on the team because it had entered administration. An independent arbitration panel ruled against them, opening the team up to possible relegation.
Similar situations have occurred across the world of Thai sports, requiring a resolution through arbitration. Just in the past few years, the CAS overturned a FIFA ruling banning former Thai football official Worawi Makudi, even though he won an appeal in Thai courts regarding the manipulation of the Thai FA elections. Also, CAS handled appeals from the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association regarding doping suspensions so that Thai athletes could return to international competitions.
Introducing the Thailand Center of ADR for Sport
The above-mentioned cases are just a few examples that demonstrate how the Court of Arbitration for Sport has become an essential forum for the vast array of sports around the world. While the CAS is a unique forum for international sporting disputes, it is not and should not be the only channel for sports arbitration. Specifically, in Thailand and ASEAN, the growth of the local sports scene has seen disputes that could benefit from a more easily accessible dispute resolution center, such as when a goalie runs into contract issues with his former team or when teams dispute the decisions of a league.
For these reasons, the Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC), in collaboration with the Sports Authority of Thailand, established the Thailand Center of ADR for Sport (TCAS) or Sport Dispute Resolution Center. TCAS focuses on developing resources specific to sports-related disputes, including providing model clauses and rules and access to arbitrators and mediators experienced in sports ADR.
If you would like more information about TCAS or if you have questions about sports arbitration services, Sport Dispute Resolution Center or mediation service, please contact THAC at [email protected] or +66 (0)2018 1615.