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CAS and its case law

Research project It has been claimed  that the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS, through its practice an autonomous and internationally applicable "legal system", lex sportiva, but has it really?

In 1984, the IOC created an international arbitral tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). One of the alleged consequences is that CAS through its decisions has created a "lex sportiva": a collection of internationally applicable rules specifically applicable to sporting activities. The project aims to map CAS's practice in order to examine the existence and contents of lex sportiva.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2015-01-01 2015-12-31


Finansår , 2015

huvudman: Juridisk inst, finansiar: Centrum för idrottsforksning, y2015: 130,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Law, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Law, Sports and fitness sciences

Project description

Sporting activities are by nature international, particularly at an elite level. Although many athletic activities are carried on a national level, most sports are organized in a structure that includes federations on national, regional, and international levels that regulate the activities.

This structure creates certain problems regrading the rights and duties of various sport actors. First, although there have been some international harmonization, there are, even on fairly central issues, significant differences between nations and between different sports. Second, many central issues are completely unregulated in sport's regulations. Third, the legal rules that ultimately govern sporting activities are primarily established at the national level, and this means that the rights and obligations of sporting actors differ depending on in which state they operate.

IOC drew attention to these problems and in 1984 established an international arbitration tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), entrusted with the task of settling disputes arising in major, international competitions, between sports federations at various levels and other sporting matters of significant importance. CAS is, like other arbitral tribunals, a private dispute resolution body and has 300 arbitrators from 87 countries (normally three per case). Each case is heard by a new arbitration panel that is not, formally, bound by the conclusions and findings of panels and judgment are confidential unless the parties agree to publication.

Despite this, one of the alleged consequences of CAS's case law is the establishment of lex sportiva: a collection of internationally applicable legal rules specifically applicable to sporting activities. As early as 1999, CAS stated that it created, especially through its arbitration awards, a collection of legal principles that nowadays is referred to as lex sportiva. When establishing these principles, CAS is inspirated by sporting rules and regulations as well as national and international legal systems, but lex sportiva is claimed to be a system of norms independent of the legal systems. Its principles are binding on the national and international sports federations and take precedence over the provisions enshrined in the national, European and international associations, rules and decisions.

An important, unanswered question that this project intends to answer is to what extent CAS through its practice has created a case law-based, normative system (lex sportiva).

The project's first phase consists of data collection. The project will collect and organise as much of CAS's practice as possible. Based on this material, the project will, first, identify the extent to which individual arbitration awards are used by CAS as a source of law ("precedential power") and, second, to what extent individual decisions contain references to many or important previous awards ("persuasive power"). Third, the project will examine whether CAS's use of case law differs between different areas. Fourth and finally, the project will analyze the impact of CAS's case law on other sporting bodies.