On 1 July 2020, the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s new Code of Sports-related Arbitration (the “Code”) came into force.  CAS has published the changes to the Code here, which will apply to all CAS arbitrations commenced after 1 July 2020.

In summary, the key changes to the CAS Procedural Rules are:

  • R29 – Language: CAS has formally adopted Spanish as the third working language of the CAS (alongside French and English).  According to CAS, approximately 10% of its arbitrations each year involve Spanish-speaking parties, so the adoption of Spanish as an official language is a pragmatic change.  A party could previously request that a CAS arbitration be conducted in Spanish, but such a request required the agreement of all other parties, the arbitral panel, and the CAS Court Office. Now, if parties do not agree on a language for their arbitration, the president of the panel (or the president of the relevant CAS Division if a president has not yet been appointed) may select Spanish as the language of the arbitration at the outset.
  • R31 – Notifications and Communications: parties may now file written submissions and copies with the CAS Court Office via the CAS e-filing platform. This amendment to R31 allows parties to avoid serving documents in hard copy in all cases. Previously, parties could electronically file their written submissions by fax or email, but they were then required to courier their submissions to the CAS Court Office in Lausanne. 
  • R32 – Time Limits: the CAS Director General (as the CAS Secretary General is newly known under the Code) may now approve a party’s request for a first extension of time for a period of up to 10 days without consulting the other party (-ies) to the arbitration. The previous maximum period was 5 days.  However, this extension of time provision still does not apply to parties’ statements of appeal.  

Overall, CAS has again shown a willingness to adjust its Procedural Rules to suit changing circumstances.  In 2019, CAS introduced new rules to allow individuals to request public hearings in disciplinary cases, and inaugurated a new Anti-Doping Division to hear and decide anti-doping cases.  

Adopting Spanish as a working language shows that CAS is conscious of its users’ requirements, and the move to permit e-filing is a timely change in light of global events in 2020. Indeed, it is interesting to note that CAS originally introduced the changes to R31 and R32 on a temporary basis in its Emergency Guidelines of March 2020 to address the impact of COVID-19 on sports arbitration (albeit at that stage R32 allowed a 2-week extension of time rather than 10 days). 

The fact that these changes have since become permanent highlights the enduring effect that COVID-19 is likely to have on arbitration procedures in the sports sector and beyond. As the world continues to grapple with the long-term impact of COVID-19, it will be intriguing to see whether the pandemic precipitates any further changes to sports arbitration rules in the years to come.