International Tennis Tournaments and their Jurisdiction

7 May 2024 - Sven Wassmer

The organisation of professional tennis is relatively complex, as it is divided between several federations. Firstly, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is responsible for organising the four Grand Slam tournaments, the Davis Cup, the Billie Jean Cup and, on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the tennis tournament of the Olympic Games.

Sven Wassmer, PhD Abogado & Rechtsanwalt +34 91 319 96 86

Additional professional tournaments are organised by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which is responsible for women’s tennis tournaments, and its counterpart in men’s tennis, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Furthermore, there are also prize money tournaments organised by national associations, as well as the ITF Tours, the tournament of the ITF itself.

As the organisation of tournaments is divided between several organisations, naturally the court or arbitration proceedings also depend on the competition in which the dispute arose. Although the WTA and ATP also have their own jurisdictional rules, we will focus on the ITF’s rules below. According to article 33 of its Constitution, the ITF has two separate adjudicatory bodies, the Internal Adjudication Panel and the Independent Tribunal.

In addition to its supervisory role, the Internal Adjudication Panel acts as a “first instance” when informed of a possible violation of the ITF regulations by a person subject to them. In this context, the Internal Adjudication Panel may conduct investigations, and any lack of cooperation with the panel may constitute a violation of ITF rules and regulations. Furthermore, the Internal Adjudication Panel acts as a second instance for decisions made by other persons or bodies under the ITF Rules, such as national associations. In practice, the panel deals (almost) exclusively with disciplinary matters, e.g. sanctions for violations of ITF rules.

The Independent Tribunal., on the other hand, can be seen as a court of arbitration. It is very important for the ITF to respect the procedural safeguards required for arbitration, such as the right to be heard and predefined procedures. To this end, it has contracted the firm Sport Resolutions to organise and conduct the arbitration proceedings. The Independent responsible for matters in the first instance and for appeals against decisions by the panel and other bodies. Although contractual disputes are not excluded from its jurisdiction, most of the matters brought before the tribunal are of disciplinary nature. Finally, the tribunal’s rules of procedure expressly establish the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as a court of appeal of the tribunal’s decisions. However, certain decisions cannot be appealed, e.g. judgements of the Independent Tribunal issued as court of appeal.