The programme was launched in cooperation with the UAE Sports Arbitration Centre and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. Image Credit: Supplied

A qualification programme for lawyers in sports disputes, organised by Abu Dhabi CAS Alternative Hearing Centre, in cooperation with the UAE Sports Arbitration Centre and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, was launched with the participation of a broad array of experts and specialists in the judicial, legal and sports fields at local and international levels, and will unfold over four days, with the possibility to attend in person at the headquarters of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), or online via videoconference.

Mr. Ahmad Ibrahim Al Marzouqi, Executive Director of the Administrative Support Sector at the Judicial Department and General Supervisor of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Branch in Abu Dhabi, emphasised the importance of the rehabilitation programme in sports disputes, to prepare national cadres with specialised scientific qualifications in handling various sports disputes, in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Presidential Court and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, to develop the judicial system and enshrine the culture of alternative dispute resolution in line with approved practices worldwide.

Fruitful cooperation

Mr. Al Marzouqi praised the fruitful cooperation and strong support provided to the Abu Dhabi CAS Alternative Hearing Centre by the authorities concerned with the sports sector in the country, to achieve its objectives of promoting the culture of arbitration in sports at the regional level, especially with the facilities made available to all parties to the dispute for the amicable settlement of disputes that may arise to athletes, whether local or international.

For his part, Mr. Dirar Balhol Al Falasi, Vice Chairman of the UAE Sport Arbitration Centre, said that the participation of so many legal and sports institutions, as well as the presence of an elite group of law professionals, jurists and academics renowned for their competence, both locally and in the Arab world, in this training programme, testifies to the importance of the educational aspect in the field of sports arbitration, which in turn contributes to establishing the spirit of law, justice and transparency to bring more stability to the sports sector.

He underlined the active role of the qualification programme in sports litigation over 4 consecutive days, to discuss a number of important topics in the presence of strategic partners and specialists in the legal and sports fields, which will certainly contribute to raising the level of those belonging to the field of sports arbitration and improving their knowledge and expertise.

The first training session was moderated by journalist YaqoobAlsaadi, Head of Abu Dhabi Sports Channels, where the concept of the sports industry and its recent development and the mechanism of financial control of sports bodies as an important tool to protect sport from corruption were discussed, in addition to tackling the issue of exploitation rights of athletes' images and the impact of exceptional circumstances on the contracts concluded.

Dr. Abdul Majeed Mahmoud, Head of the Technical Office of the Judicial Inspection at the ADJD, addressed the development of sport at both competition and championship levels, and the establishment of national and international entities to manage sports events, in a context marked by the transformation of sport into an industry and an investment, which requires providing an attractive environment for this investment field, due to its positive impact on the national economy of countries.

Legal rules

He pointed out that this development has led to the establishment of legal rules and limits in various sports practices, and for conflicts between athletes and clubs, motivated by the emergence of legal and economic considerations, hence the advent of arbitration and mediation for the resolution of disputes, especially with the expansion of transactions in the sports field, following the transfer of practice to professional and semi-professional environments.

For his part, Counsellor Hisham Badawi, Head of the Central Auditing Organisation of the Arab Republic of Egypt, reviewed the financial control procedures of sports bodies, as well as their role in protecting sports activities, which is of great interest to countries, companies and commercial institutions that provide support services to it, and highlighted the emergence of sponsoring entities that, over time, have begun to take on an institutional nature that includes financial, administrative and legal systems to manage and supervise sports.

With the transformation of sport into an institutional activity that involves multiple parties, including countries with their own regulations, laws and rules, he added, it has become necessary to put in place controls to prevent any financial or administrative corruption, which can be exploited in the commission of money laundering, economic crimes or any other type of crime.

Dr. Ahmad Abdel Zaher, legal advisor at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, discussed players' image rights, which have become an important contractual clause in players' contracts with their clubs, and can result in the player's destination being diverted from one club to another, or in disputes between the player and different parties in the event of a breach of this clause, as an economic aspect that generates a great deal of profit, both for players and clubs.

Dr. Abdel Zaher said that image rights in sport are extremely valuable assets, as they involve many financial and sporting elements, to such an extent that the services of an expert are needed to ensure their legal protection. There are many issues and questions whose answers are unknown to the unqualified, and therefore, obtaining professional legal advice is a prerequisite for the proper exploitation of these rights, he concluded.

Players' contracts

For his part, Judge Dr. Muhammad Al-Ketbi from Al Ain Court of First Instance, who holds a PhD in professional sports contracts, spoke about the impact of exceptional circumstances on players' contracts and about certain procedures that are considered illegal in normal times, and which are necessary to protect public order in exceptional cases, referring to the concept of force majeure in civil law, which allows justice, depending on the emergency circumstances, to balance the interests of both parties, and to restore the burdensome obligation to a reasonable extent if justice decides to terminate any agreement to the contrary, citing examples from the reality of the "Covid 19" pandemic and its impact on these contracts.

Dr. Adel Abdulaziz Al-Sun, Advisor to the Arab Administrative Development Organisation of the League of Arab States, shed light on the rules governing players' contracts and transfers in the light of the FIFA 2022 Players' Status and Transfer Regulations and the UAE Football Association 2021 Players' Status and Transfer Regulations, explaining the differences between the transfer contract, the professional contract and the loan contract in terms of the parties involved, the legal nature and the effects produced on each contract.