UAE Sports Arbitration Centre Kicks Off Operations

By: Abdulla Abuwasel

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) is based in Switzerland and is considered the elite international dispute resolution forum for legal disputes relating to sports, including commercial disputes (i.e., issues arising from sponsorship agreements or player contracts) and discipline (i.e., doping, non-compliance with codes of conduct). CAS also acts as an appeals court for decisions made by the arbitration systems of sports organizations or dispute resolution mechanisms, including global associations with disciplinary arms such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

In May 2012, Abu Dhabi hosted the first seat for the Court of Arbitration for Sport outside Switzerland. Now, Abu Dhabi is home to its own arbitration centre, dubbed the UAE Sports Arbitration Centre (“UAE SAC”) which has been established under the Federal Law No 16 for 2016 issued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

UAE SAC partly began operations in 2016, but as of June 2020, it has commenced full operations. The UAE SAC is equipped with every facility, which is available for anyone seeking to resolve their disputes related to sports through mediation or arbitration. This significant milestone is a positive development in sport, aiming at spreading a culture of sports mediation or arbitration in the United Arab Emirates.

According to a recent study, Dubai’s burgeoning sports industry now exceeds USD 1.7 billion annually; this accounts for 0.8% of Dubai’s GDP. Of the USD 1.763 billion, USD 670 million originates from overseas markets, which indicates Dubai’s growing importance as a world sporting destination.

The UAE is renowned as a prime emerging sports market and continues to grow and offer a landscape for development. This aptitude across the nation brings vast opportunities and challenges and will most certainly act as a catalyst for sustainable development; with such development requiring a parallel expansion in the legal infrastructure of the sports market.

The UAE SAC will seek to be the answer to the legal challenges in play and assist in the sustainable development of the market. Although the UAE SAC has yet to unveil its rules of arbitration, they will most likely be revealed to the public in the coming weeks. However, looking at the CAS – which the UAE SAC is closely modeled after – we can arguably presume that the standard clause to be inserted into contracts for resolution by the UAE SAC will look like this:

“Any dispute arising from or related to the present contract will be submitted exclusively to the Sports Arbitration Centre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and resolved definitively in accordance with the [UAE SAC Rules].”

Optional explanatory phrases:

“The Panel will consist of one [or three] arbitrator(s).”

“The language of the arbitration will be…” 

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Abdulla Abuwasel
Managing Associate |

Abdulla Abu-Wasel is a graduate of the University of La Verne with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. He is a certified Legal Technician in the State of California and has studied Contract Law at Harvard University.

Abdulla trained under the former Chief Justice of the UAE Federal Supreme Court, working on matters varying from bounced cheques in relation to identity theft, to the applicability of force majeure on insurance disputes, and employment law compliance.

He has written on a multitude of topics, including navigating the arbitrator selection process, the laws of space and the implementation of space cybersecurity, the business of influencing, and social media laws and regulations in the UAE.

He specializes in commercial and investment arbitration, mergers and acquisitions, and influencer disputes.

Abdulla works closely with entrepreneurs and small-to-medium-sized enterprises in protecting their businesses from minor to major disputes and is closely trusted by various high-net-worth entrepreneurs in the MENA region.

Abdulla serves as the Secretary to the Board of Directors for The Hague Institute of Global Justice, a Partner of Young Arab Leaders, and a member of the Space Generation Advisory Council.

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