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Football: Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal confirms the jurisdiction of CAS

By Dr. iur. Alara Efsun Yazıcıoğlu, LLM, Assistant Professor of Tax Law at Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey

After establishing that the leadership of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) had engaged in various acts of mismanagement, the FIFA Council installed a normalisation committee. The former leadership of the TTFA opted for opposing this appointment before the domestic courts instead of the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS).

FIFA reminded the TTFA that such a course of action was in direct breach of article 59 of the FIFA Statutes, which states that CAS is the competent authority for the purposes of dispute resolution and that recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited, unless specifically provided for in the FIFA Regulations, which was not the case for the purposes of the dispute at hand.

In August 2020, the Trinidad and Tobago High Court decided to proceed with the claim made by the former leadership of the TTFA against the appointment of the normalisation committee effected by FIFA.

On 20 August 2020, FIFA lodged an appeal against this decision by emphasising that the only competent authority to resolve such disputes is CAS. The international federation also urged the former leadership of the national association to withdraw the appeal lodged before the domestic court of law by 16 September 2020. This initial deadline was then extended until 23 September 2020. The TTFA refused to withdraw the case within this time frame.

On 24 September 2020, the Bureau of the FIFA Council decided to suspend the TTFA.

The Bureau underlined that the suspension would only be lifted when the TTFA fully complied with its obligations as a member of FIFA, which includes the recognition of the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and the proper application of the national statutes that are in line with the FIFA Statutes.

On 24 October 2020, the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal allowed the appeal filed by FIFA, deciding that the former leadership of the TTFA had acted unlawfully by appealing to a local court. The Court of Appeal stated that, in accordance with the TTFA Statues and the FIFA Statutes, CAS was the only competent authority to resolve such disputes.

The decision rendered by the national court recognised, once more, CAS as the exclusive competent authority for the resolution of sports-related disputes.

The competence of CAS has been questioned in a number of cases over the last decade. The relevant national courts have opted for confirming the competence of the international tribunal in all these cases. Nonetheless, persons, who are not satisfied by the end result of the application of the well-established sporting rules, continue to try to circumvent such rules by having recourse to domestic courts.

The next saga is likely to occur within the not too distant future!

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