Two football federations covering the Americas have selected Cayman for the site of a new sports arbitration court.
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association of Football, better known as CONCACAF, and CONMEBOL, the confederation for South American Football, met in Uruguay last week and picked the Cayman Islands as the jurisdiction for any legal disputes for football teams in the Americas.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Cayman will handle most legal disputes that come up in football – everything from contract disputes to doping cases.
CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, who is also a Cayman businessman, said, “As a result of recent legislative changes and its rich judicial heritage, the Cayman Islands presents itself as a natural choice in which to centralize the arbitration of all football disputes within the Americas.”
Arbitration is a formal legal proceeding, with the same force as a judicial decision, but is meant to be a simpler process by which parties can negotiate a dispute without a lengthy, expensive court trial. Any appeals from the arbitration decisions will go to the Grand Court in George Town.
“It is envisioned that this process will be fully implemented within the next few months,” Mr. Webb said. “This is a process that will be especially welcomed as we set our sights on settling a wide range of sports disputes fairly, effectively, quickly and relatively inexpensively.”
In a statement released Tuesday, CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout said, “Establishing a single jurisdiction in the Americas for the purposes of hearing disputes related to football is of the utmost importance to both the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL regions. This will provide both Confederations with an environment in which disputes can be arbitrated in a consistent and uniform manner.”
Simon Firth, an attorney with Maples and Calder, said the new arbitration agreement will lead to “an influx of experts into Cayman” to help settle these disputes.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” he said.
He expects the economic impact to be significant: “This could be another pillar to the financial services industry.” He said the impact will benefit everything involved in having a big hearing on Grand Cayman – hotels, restaurants and airlines, in addition to professional services like accountants and actuaries. “The lawyers will do very well here,” he said.
Mr. Firth pointed to a study in Canada that estimated each international arbitration held in Toronto generated US$1.7 million for the local economy.
Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who had a major role in revising Cayman’s arbitration law, said, “As a major international financial center, our jurisdiction should offer all the established means for the resolution of disputes. Arbitration and mediation are now established alternatives to court proceedings for the resolution of commercial disputes including those more complex disputes.”
The Cayman Islands government approved rules in 2012 to update the country’s arbitration law and bring it in line with other jurisdictions under a model set by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. The new law paved the way to bring major arbitration agreements to Cayman’s jurisdiction.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, established in 1984, is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, with decentralized offices in New York and Sydney, Australia. It also has alternative hearing centers in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Cairo. Previously, most sports issues arising in this region that required arbitration were dealt with in New York.