Structure of the Sports’ Jurisdiction in Spain

3 July 2023 - Sven Wassmer

The Spanish Sports Law (Law 39/2022) has introduced new changes to the structure of the sports jurisdiction in Spain. It has even dedicated an entire chapter to dispute resolution in sports’ matters at the national level.

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

In order to understand conflict resolution in sports’ matters in Spain, it is important to distinguish between sanctioning and disciplinary measures, i.e. administrative settlement of dispute, on the one hand and private dispute resolution on the other.

Competent to impose sanctions and disciplinary measures via administrative proceedings, depending on their nature and severity, are the state disciplinary bodies provided for in the statutes and regulations of the national sports federations in Spain: the Superior Sports Council (Consejo Superior del Deporte, CSD) and the Sports Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal Administrativo del Deporte, TAD). The TAD takes action in terms of sanctions and disciplinary measures at the request of the CSD or as a body of review for sanctions imposed by the national federations. Decisions of the CSD and the TAD (including the review of sanctions imposed by federations) can only be appealed before the ordinary courts, specifically, the administrative courts.

As becomes clear, the TAD plays a crucial role in the disciplinary system: on the one hand as a review body for sanctions imposed by the federations and on the other hand, perhaps to a lesser extent, as a sanctioning body for specific violations. Its relevance is also reflected in the fact that its decisions cannot be appealed at the level of the sports federations; they must be challenged before the public administrative courts. The TAD sits as panel and its members are appointed by the CSD. Although it is functionally independent from the general Spanish State Administration, the decisions of the TAD are administrative acts which, as shown above, exhaust administrative processes.

Regarding the resolution of private dispute, the Spanish Sports Law stipulates that national sports federations and professional leagues must establish an out-of-court system for dispute resolution, which is voluntary and free of charge for athletes. These out-of-court decisions and rulings are subject to review according to the regulations for arbitration and mediation, thus limiting the review to certain situations and criteria. If the parties to the dispute do not opt for the voluntary out-of-court dispute resolution system set up by the respective associations or leagues, the dispute will be decided by the civil courts.

In summary, the system of national sports jurisdiction in Spain provides athletes with sufficient guarantees, as it allows them to resort to the ordinary state jurisdiction, both in disciplinary matters and in private disputes.