Sports Arbitration

Our arbitration service provides a final and binding resolution to all kinds of sports disputes where the parties need a decision to be made on a specific matter.

In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court. The parties consent to arbitration via an arbitration or appeals clause incorporated into the regulations of a sport or contract or by entering into a matter specific arbitration agreement.

The service includes:

  • Nomination and appointment of a sport specific panel of independent arbitrator(s)
  • Guidance and assistance in setting up and organising arbitration in accordance with our Arbitration Rules and using our standard Arbitration Agreement
  • Case management assistance to keep the arbitration to time and budget  
  • Attendance at the hearing to support the parties and the tribunal and to make a digital audio recording of proceedings
  • Liaison with the parties and the tribunal over distribution of the arbitration award

Examples of sports disputes that we have succesfully resolved by arbitration include:

  • Appeals against disciplinary sanctions
  • Appeals against athlete selection decisions
  • Commercial and contractual issues
  • Discrimination claims
  • Funding appeals
  • Relegation and promotion issues
  • Player eligibility

Sport Resolutions has a unique method of appointing its members to cases where we guarantee a high level of independence and fairness to parties.


What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a private dispute resolution process in which the parties consent to the final and binding determination of their dispute by a panel of independent and expert arbitrator(s). It is governed by the 1996 Arbitration Act and is managed in accordance with Sport Resolutions’ Arbitration Rules.

What does this mean in practice?

An independent arbitrator or panel of arbitrators are appointed with the consent of the parties. The parties present written arguments and evidence in accordance with a timetable agreed with the arbitrator(s) and in accordance with Sport Resolutions’ Arbitration Rules (see Related Documents). A hearing may be held in which evidence is presented and witnesses are cross-examined. Following the hearing, the arbitrator(s) produce a detailed written award which is final and binding on the parties.

How does Sport Resolutions become involved with an arbitration?

To commence arbitration, the parties to a dispute must consent to bring the matter to Sport Resolutions. This is typically achieved by one of two ways:

1) Such agreement may be automatically incorporated into a relevant regulation, rule or contract or pre-existing contract, or;
2) The parties may enter into an ad hoc arbitration agreement. 

The effect of the consent is to confer jurisdiction on Sport Resolutions to work with the parties to resolve their dispute by way of arbitration, and without jurisdiction Sport Resolutions is unable to become involved.

What is an arbitration agreement?

A contract between the parties which binds them to the arbitration process. It usually sets out the nature of the dispute. The names of the parties, how the costs of the tribunal will be shared and other factors such as the number of tribunal members. Sport Resolutions has a standard arbitration agreement template to assist the parties in drawing up an agreement.

How does a typical arbitration run?

The claimant or appellant files a notice of arbitration setting out the nature of the dispute and the remedy or outcome sought, the name and addresses of all parties to the arbitration and a copy of the relevant rule, contract clause or arbitration agreement which confers jurisdiction on Sport Resolutions. A panel of arbitrator(s) then appointed in colloboration with the parties.

Once appointed, the chair of the panel of arbitrator(s) hold a directions hearing (which can be virtual) in which a timetable is set for filing documents with the panel. The date, venue and length of the hearing is also set. The directions are usually confirmed in writing by way of a Directions Order.

Throughout the process Sport Resolutions acts as independent secretariat to the tribunal and all communication with the panel is made through the Sport Resolutions office.

How are the arbitrator(s) chosen?

Sport Resolutions maintains an extensive list of arbitrators with knowledge and experience of sport and the commercial and regulatory environment of sport. It is from this panel that SR makes its appointments – with SR making the nominations rather than the parties. By taking this approach, the appointed tribunals are completely independent of the parties. A party may object to an appointment if it believes there might be a conflict of interest.

Sport Resolutions’ Arbitration Rules provide for the parties to opt for a sole arbitrator or a panel of three. The chair of an arbitration panel will always be legally qualified and wing members come from a broader range of professional backgrounds. 

The Arbitration Rules provide for flexibility in how the arbitrators are appointed. The parties may ask Sport Resolutions to appoint arbitrator(s) with specific skills or experiences or alternatively they may choose from a list of arbitrators which is provided by us.

What happens at an arbitration hearing?

Arbitration hearings are held in private and attendance is restricted to those directly involved in the proceedings. Hearings are normally held at International Dispute Resolution Centre (where also SR office is based) at 1 Paternoster Lane, St Paul's, London, or at any venue that the parties agree between themselves. 

Each party will have its own private breakout room, and will meet in the hearing room, in front of the panel, to give evidence and oral submissions. 

How is the decision of the arbitration panel communicated?

Arbitration awards are normally given in writing, with detailed reasons, within three weeks of the conclusion of the hearing. They are distributed by e-mail to the parties. The parties may request a verbal decision with written reasons to follow if the matter is urgent (for example, where an important sporting event is directly related to the decision). Arbitration awards are only published if the parties agree to do so, or if the applicable rules allow. 

How much does an arbitration cost and who has to pay?

The cost of the arbitration is usually split equally between the parties. This includes the fees and expenses of the arbitrator(s), the administration fees of Sport Resolutions and any costs for hiring a hearing venue or live transcription service. Fees vary depending on factors such as the number of arbitrators, the length of the hearing and the number of files that need to be read by the panel in advance of the hearing.

As a rough guide the cost of a one day arbitration before a sole arbitrator will range from £1,000 to £3,000 per party. Fees will be lower if an oral hearing is not necessary. Parties are responsible for their own fees for legal representation before the panel. Additional charges will be made for additional hearing days. Parties are free to agree how costs are to be split irrespective of outcome.

How do I appeal against an arbitration award?

Arbitration usually provides a final and binding resolution to a dispute. Any right of appeal will be determined on what was agreed between the parties involved in the arbitration process or any appeal clause of provision in the applicable rules that govern the process.