Riza v Turkey: European Court of Human Rights gives further guidance on establishing independent arbitral tribunals
On 28 January 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its Judgement in the application of Mr. Riza (a footballer), Mr Akal (a referee) and Others v. Turkey. The Judgement found that Turkey had violated Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) as Mr. Riza and Mr Akal had not received a fair trial. The reason for this was due to structural deficiencies in the Arbitration Committee of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), namely:
“….that the executive body of the TFF, the Board of Directors, which had always largely consisted of members or executives of football clubs, had too strong an influence over the organisation and functioning of the Arbitration Committee. Nor did TFF law provide appropriate safeguards to protect members of the Arbitration Committee from any outside pressure.” (see Press Release)
As a result, Turkey have been ordered to reform their system for settling football disputes.
Even though the case relates to football disputes in Turkey, the Judgment is likely to have a wider impact on the structure and governance of sports tribunals at other federations and in other jurisdictions. In particular, it imposes higher requirements on the “independence” of such tribunals to the extent that recourse is compulsory and there is no subsequent judicial review by an independent court. The Judgment comes after the Mutu and Pechstein judgment rendered by the ECtHR in October 2018, which related to the independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the right to have a public hearing (for a summary of Mutu and Pechstein, please see this article).
Accordingly, this article examines:
· the facts of the case,
· the key findings of the ECtHR;
· the similarities to Mutu and Pechstein; and
· key points for sports federations on establishing independent arbitral tribunals.
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- Tags: Arbitration | Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) | Dispute Resolution | Football | Human Rights | Regulation | Swiss Federal Tribunal | Turkey | Turkish Football Federation
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Dr. Despina Mavromati is an attorney at the Swiss law firm BianchiSchwald and an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). She has extensive experience in international sports law and arbitration. She represents athletes, clubs and federations and advises on regulatory and sports governance matters, including the recognition and enforcement of awards and freezing of assets in Switzerland. Despina has acted as counsel, co-counsel, expert or arbitrator in numerous sports arbitrations, involving contractual, governance, doping-related and other disciplinary and ethics matters. Recognized as a Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal in Switzerland every year since 2018, “Despina Mavromati is “brilliant and accomplished” and “an amazing lawyer with immense knowledge and expertise when it comes to disputes before the CAS” (Who’s Who Legal 2023).