The Sports Law Review: Switzerland

Organisation of sports clubs and sports governing bodies

i Organisational form

Association is by far the most commonly used form of legal entity in the field of sport. However, the legislator has specifically provided only 24 articles (Articles 60 to 79 of the Swiss Civil Code (CC)) for the association and, moreover, not all of them are mandatory.2 This restraint reflects the desire to grant associations a substantial organisational freedom.3 This freedom has encouraged numerous international sports organisations to settle in Switzerland, giving Swiss law a central role in the sports world.4

To date, around 70 international sports organisations, most of which are organised in the form of an association, are based in Switzerland.5 This includes the International Olympic Committee (IOC),6 the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA),7 the Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA),8 the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF),9 the International Cycling Union (UCI)10, the International Boxing Association (AIBA)11 and World Rowing.12 To this are added the Swiss national associations for each sport, as well as thousands of local associations that are hierarchically subordinated to them.13

Associations are established by their members, and have neither any share capital nor shareholders. In addition, the decision-making process follows the per capita principle (i.e., each member has one vote in members' meetings),14 unless otherwise provided in the statutes.15

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)16 and the International Testing Agency (ITA)17 are organised as Swiss foundations within the meaning of Articles 80 et seq. CC, namely a more rigid legal form, which allows the allocation of assets to a special purpose.

Professional sports teams are usually set up as limited companies pursuant to Articles 620 et seq. of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO), notably in football18 and ice hockey.19 They provide a defined company capital divided into shares, held by the company's owners. In principle, the more stock a shareholder holds, the stronger his influence will be on the decision-making process.20 It is frequent that, in a club, the professional team is constituted as a limited company, with the junior or amateur teams remaining part of the association that maintains a close contractual relationship to the limited company operating the professional team.

ii Corporate governance

The members of associations established under Swiss law enjoy wide discretion in terms of structuring and administering the entity, notably in respect of deciding its internal governance, the rights and obligations of the members and the internal remedies.

However, an association is legally obliged to hold a general meeting each year if it is subject to the obligation to register in the commercial register.21 Pursuant to Article 61 CC, the registration of an association in the commercial register is currently compulsory if it conducts a commercial operation in pursuit of its objects22 or if it is subject to audit requirement.23

In practice, many international federations, such as World Rowing or AIBA, are not registered in the commercial register because of their initial 'non-profit' purpose. The impact of the future revision of Article 61 CC24 in this regard will probably be limited.

In addition, all associations must at the very least keep simplified accounts.25

Foundations are subject to stricter administrative obligations (compulsory registration in the commercial register, state control, auditing obligation, etc.),26 with the costs that this entails.

Limited companies are also required to enter in the commercial register and have their accounts audited, except for small companies with the consent of all shareholders.27

iii Corporate liability

The rules on the corporate liability of sports organisations as well as their managers and directors are set out in the Swiss private law rules.

Persons acting on behalf of an association bind it by their actions and are personally liable for their wrongful acts.28

Managers and directors of a limited company can be held liable in relation to the company, the shareholders and, under certain conditions, the company's creditors for any loss or damage arising from any intentional or negligent breach of their duties.29

A legal entity and its managers and directors can also be held liable pursuant to the Swiss Criminal Code (CP). The company will only be sanctioned on a subsidiary basis, namely if the wrongdoer cannot be identified and punished.30

For the most serious offences, the company will be subject to criminal sanctions irrespective of the liability of a natural person, unless the company can prove that it has taken all reasonable organisational measures required to prevent the criminal act.31

Since the review of the Criminal Code in 2016, triggered by the investigation launched in the United States amid allegations of corruption among FIFA officials, the prosecution of corruption instances in the private sector has also been more easily punishable.32

Finally, sports governing bodies usually provide for a detailed set of ethics rules (code of conduct), with independent sanctioning regimes.33

The dispute resolution system

i Access to courts

Access to courts in Switzerland is based on Article 30 of the Swiss federal Constitution (Cst), which states: 'Any person whose case falls to be judicially decided has the right to have their case heard by a legally constituted, competent, independent and impartial court.'

Other provisions give concrete expression to this principle in relation to associations and corporate entities. Thus, Article 75 CC allows members of an association to challenge its decisions in court, if they have not previously adhered to it, within one month.

Article 706 CO provides for a similar mechanism for shareholders with regard to decisions taken at the general meetings of limited companies.

ii Sports arbitration

Switzerland plays a key role in sports arbitration. In addition to the numerous sports organisations based on its territory, it hosts the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).34

Most sports organisations have adopted detailed regulations and set up internal instances that determine issues between the organisation and their members, as well as between the members and other stakeholders. These internal instances cannot be called arbitral, as they do not fulfil the required guarantees of independence and impartiality.35 They are therefore subject to the control of external state and arbitral courts (if a valid arbitration agreement is in place, by way of a specific convention or a general clause included in sports regulations).

All international sports federations belonging to the Olympic Movement have, to date, included an arbitration clause in favour of the CAS in their regulations.36 The scope of these arbitration clauses, however, vary from one federation to another. Moreover, some international sports federations have delegated to the CAS Anti-Doping Division the authority to issue, on their behalf, decisions against athletes in doping-related matters.

The CAS is often referred to as the 'sports supreme court'.37 It has, potentially, jurisdiction to arbitrate any sports-related disputes, provided that the parties have agreed to submit the dispute to it.38 Exceptions to this rule are areas exclusively reserved for state courts39 and the rules of play,40 which are, by definition, not triable.41

The CAS has been recognised as an independent and impartial arbitration body since the landmark judgments ruled by the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) in the Gundel42 and Lazutina43 cases, which were confirmed on numerous occasions thereafter.44 Moreover, it is obliged to respect the procedural guarantees of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, at least in the case of a 'forced' arbitration.45

CAS awards are final and binding, subject to appeal to the SFT only on the grounds of public policy and procedural defects.46

Swiss law is the lex arbitri in CAS arbitration. Switzerland has a dual system of arbitration, since domestic and international arbitration are governed by different laws. Thus, domestic arbitration is regulated by Title 3 of the Swiss Civil Procedure Code (Articles 353 et seq. CPC), whereas international arbitration is governed by Chapter 12 of the Swiss Private International Law Act (Articles 176 et seq. Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA)).47

While great emphasis is placed on party autonomy in adapting the arbitral proceedings to their needs, Swiss arbitration law contains several mandatory requirements. The provisions on arbitrability,48 stipulating the lack of independence or impartiality as grounds to challenge an arbitrator,49 requiring the arbitral tribunal to ensure equal treatment of the parties and compliance with their right to be heard,50 as well as those providing for assistance by the state courts at the seat of the arbitral tribunal,51 are among the mandatory rules.52

Chapter 12 PILA was amended in early 2021. Amendments include the possibility to file submissions to the SFT in English and the removal of the admissibility condition of a minimum disputed amount.53 The amended provisions also bring some clarifications with respect to the application of PILA, the statutory arbitration clauses and the forms of communication that allow the arbitration agreement to be evidenced by text.54

Swiss arbitration laws are implemented and completed by the rules of arbitral tribunals, such as the Code of Sports-related Arbitration adopted by the CAS (CAS Code).55

The CAS Code prescribes the application of Swiss law in ordinary procedures if the parties have not decided otherwise.56 In addition, Swiss law often applies on a subsidiary or complementary basis in appeal proceedings, as the 'law of the country in which the federation, association or sports-related body which has issued the challenged decision is domiciled'.57

iii Enforceability

In domestic disputes, decisions of state courts or independent and impartial arbitration courts are subject to enforcement in accordance with Articles 335 et seq. CPC, unless the decision relates to the payment of money or the provision of security, in which case it is enforced pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Act on Debt Enforcement and Bankruptcy.

The recognition of decisions of Swiss state courts and arbitral awards of arbitration courts having their seat in Switzerland is subject to the relevant international treaties such as the Lugano Convention58 and the New York Convention.59

Internal decisions of sports organisations are usually not recognised as judgments or awards, owing to their lack of independence and impartiality.60 Consequently, they are not, as such, enforceable pursuant to the domestic statutory provisions and international treaties mentioned above. These decisions are, however, usually complied with by the parties concerned, to avoid the imposition of sporting sanctions by the relevant organisation.

Organisation of sports events

When organising an event, the promoter enters into a multitude of contracts. The contracting parties depend on specific circumstances, but typically include athletes, venue owners, local authorities, hospitality and other service providers as well as spectators.

i Relationship between organiser and spectator

The relationship between the organiser of a sports event and spectators is primarily of a contractual nature. The contract becomes effective when a spectator purchases a ticket for the event. Its main purpose is to grant access to a venue in return for a fee.

The contract may also include ancillary rights and obligations related to safety, liability, advertising and broadcasting.

ii Relationship between organiser and athletes or clubs

The relationship between an organiser and athletes or clubs participating at a certain sports event can be based on a specific agreement on participation or on membership to an association. If there is no specific agreement between a sports organisation and an athlete taking part in a competition, the SFT tends to consider that the liability of the organiser is governed by tort law.61

iii Liability of the organiser

Organisers of sports events have a duty of care, and general duty to provide safety for spectators and athletes. Such duty of care may be based on contract law (Articles 97 et seq. CO) or tort law (Articles 41 et seq. CO). In addition, in case of certain accidents, criminal law may apply.

Organisers have to take all reasonable and appropriate precautionary measures to protect spectators and athletes from accidents and damage. This obligation is, however, not unlimited, and an organiser will be able to reject or mitigate his liability in the case of faulty behaviour by the spectator or a third party.62

It may be possible for sports event organisers to limit their liability through general terms and conditions underlying the ticket purchase. However, under Swiss law, any agreement purporting to exclude or limit liability for unlawful intent or gross negligence in advance is void.63

Furthermore, according to the majority of Swiss legal commentators, it is not permitted to exclude or limit in advance liability for bodily injuries (physical integrity) or death.64

These questions have become even more topical since the recent controversy and wave of litigation that arose in North America and Australia in relation to the potential long-term medical complications associated with multiple instances of head trauma.65

iv Liability of the athletes

Athletes may be liable in torts, especially in team sports, where contact with opponents and injuries are frequent. However, the doctrine of the assumption of risk applies,66 at least when the rules of play have been complied with or have not been breached by the damaging party in a serious manner.67

Athletes may also expose themselves to criminal sanctions. While Swiss courts have long been reluctant to impose meaningful criminal sanctions in sport,68 they have tended in recent years to be more severe.69

v Liability of the spectators

If a spectator breaches a primary or ancillary obligation under the spectator contract, he becomes liable for compensation pursuant to Articles 97 et seq. CO.

According to some legal commentators,70 some general obligations apply to spectators even if they are not expressly stipulated, pursuant to the principle of good faith. This includes, for instance, the obligation not to let off any fireworks, to disturb the course of the event or to jeopardise the health of the players and other spectators.

vi Riot prevention

The legislation against hooliganism in Switzerland is relatively recent, having been introduced prior to the 2008 UEFA Euro and the 2009 Ice Hockey World Championships.71

Besides the Federal Act on Measures to Safeguard Internal Security (LMSI), the most important regulation currently in place is the Cantonal Concordat on Measures against Violence at Sporting Events (CVMS).

The main measures provided for are the hooligan database, perimeter and travel bans, the obligation to report to the police, and police custody.72 Moreover, a cantonal authorisation system is provided for first division football and hockey matches. Additional constraints (prohibition on selling alcohol, etc.) may be ordered depending on the risk classification of the game.73

Commercialisation of sports events

i Types of and ownership in rights

Swiss law offers a large variety of sports-related commercial rights. In addition to sponsorship and broadcasting, event organisers may conclude contractual arrangements related to merchandising, hospitality, ticketing and insurance.

The broadcasting of an event can take place in different ways (complete event or key moments, broadcasting via satellite, cable, internet, etc.). The contracts concluded must, therefore, always define precisely which rights the purchaser may exploit. This is a particularly sensitive area, since it is subject to constant and rapid technical developments, while broadcasting contracts are often signed several years before the event in question.

The negotiation of broadcasting rights can be done individually, with each interested television channel, or with groups of channels, such as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU),74 or even through specialised agents.75

In Switzerland, the Swiss broadcasting corporation (SSR)76 offers a wide variety of sports events on a free-to-air basis. A larger range of sports events are available on a pay-TV basis from other broadcasters.

Sponsorship allows companies to associate their name with a sport (through its governing bodies), a sporting event, an athlete or a team.77 Under Swiss law, the sponsorship contract is a sui generis contract, or even a mixed contract, which uses elements of several nominate contracts.78 It must therefore be drafted as clearly and explicitly as possible in order to minimise the risk of disputes.

Merchandising, hospitality, ticketing and insurance involve a multitude of partners and contractual arrangements.

Within this contractual framework, intellectual property rights must be appropriately secured and assigned.

ii Rights protection

Image rights

Image rights are part of personality rights and are protected from unlawful infringements by Articles 13 Cst and 28 et seq. CC. The protection is to some extent limited for athletes, who are considered as public personalities.

However, any commercialisation of image rights requires the athlete's consent.79 Commercialisation without consent allows the athlete to seek legal protection against the infringing party, including a cease-and-desist order and claim for damages.80


The copyright law of Switzerland is regulated by the Swiss Federal Copyright Act (LDA) and its implementation Ordinance. It protects the authors of literary, artistic and scientific works and software.81

The author (or the exclusive licensee) has the exclusive right to exploit the work without the need for a specific registration.82 He or she can invoke breaches of copyright in civil or criminal proceedings, or both, apart from exceptions provided for by the LDA.83 In cases of urgency, provisional measures can be sought.84 Damages are calculated in accordance with tort law,85 account of profits86 or unjust enrichment.87

Sports events are, in principle, not protected by copyright because they do not constitute works pursuant to the LDA.88 However, recordings of sports events may be considered as works pursuant to the LDA if they have an individual character.89


The relevant trademark legislation in Switzerland is the Trademark Protection Act (LPM) and its related Ordinance.

Swiss trademarks can be registered online by filing an application with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI).90 An international extension can then be sought with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).91

The registration allows the owner to prohibit third parties from using similar trademarks for similar products or services and to preserve his or her rights in the case of an unauthorised use of a trademark in civil or criminal proceedings, or both.92

Trademarks are usually used to designate specific sports competitions and events.

Professional sports and labour law

i Mandatory provisions

Swiss employment law is mainly governed by the CO and the Employment Act (LTr).

The CO is very liberal, but includes a few mandatory provisions regarding, for instance, termination, holiday pay, sickness and prohibition of competition.93 A few other provisions are partly mandatory and can only be adapted in favour of the worker.94

The LTr contains provisions on employee protection, including health protection, overtime work and work during nights and weekends.95 These provisions are, in principle, mandatory and applicable to all employees in Switzerland. However, they are considered as inappropriate in respect of the activities of professional athletes.96

Additionally, mandatory provisions can be found in the Federal Act on Employment Services and Hiring Services (LSE), which are relevant for sports agents. They set requirements regarding residency, licence, maximum fees and criminal sanctions.97

Finally, the Federal Act on Gender Equality (LEg) establishes a general prohibition of gender discrimination.98

ii Free movement of athletes

The bilateral agreement on the free movement of persons (ALCP) confers upon the citizens of Switzerland and of the Member States of the European Union the right to freely choose their place of employment and residence within the national territories of the contracting parties.99 The ALCP is also applicable to professional athletes.100 In this context, discrimination because of citizenship is forbidden.101

This system also applies to citizens of the European Free Trade Association countries.102 Citizens of third countries are subject to the Swiss Foreign Nationals Act (LEI), which sets higher burdens regarding admission to employment and residence, but also provides some exceptions for professional athletes.103

Notwithstanding the above, some sports have applied limitations on the basis of citizenship, based on 'gentlemen's agreements'.104

iii Application of employment rules of sports governing bodies

In football and hockey, the competent sports governing bodies have enacted standard contracts, which are included in the respective player–club relationships.105

In addition, FIFA has adopted the Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players, which, in accordance with the general rules laid down by the CAS Code,106 only allows, in practice, Swiss law to be applied on a suppletive basis.

Sports and antitrust law

Antitrust law in Switzerland is governed by the Federal Act on Cartels and other Restraints of Competition (Cartel Act, or LCart).

The Cartel Act applies to private and public undertakings that are parties to cartels or to other agreements affecting competition, that exercise market power or are part of a concentration of undertakings.107

The Cartel Act aims to prevent harmful economic or social consequences of cartels and other restrictions on competition and thus to promote competition in the interests of a liberal market economy. The guarantee of effective competition in Switzerland rests on three pillars. First, the law prohibits agreements between companies that significantly affect competition and that are not justified on grounds of economic efficiency.108 Second, it prohibits the abuse of a dominant position by one or more companies.109 Third, it provides that mergers involving large companies must be examined by the Swiss Antitrust Commission (COMCO) to establish whether they will create or strengthen a dominant position capable of suppressing effective competition.110

The activities and regulations of a sports governing body are traditionally considered to be outside the scope of the Cartel Act if they are related to the organisation, governance and administration of their particular sport. However, sports organisations may be bound by this legislation in specific instances, such as the sale of broadcast and marketing rights.

This situation is subject to growing criticism, since sports organisations are often seen as having a dominant position on their relevant sport or markets, which may significantly impact commercial rights and distort competition. Such arguments have recently been raised, without any success, in support of a request for provisional measures sought by athletes following the Russian doping affair.111

Finally, they have recently been invoked, in vain, by several Swiss football clubs against their governing bodies during the covid-19 outbreak and suspension of competitions.112

Sports and taxation

The Swiss tax system is organised on three levels (federal, cantonal and communal). It grants a high degree of autonomy to the cantons and communes. The Confederation, by contrast, may levy taxes only to the extent permitted by the Constitution.113

Taxes in Switzerland can be divided into two categories:

  1. direct taxes (taxes on income and wealth of individuals, taxes on profit and capital of legal persons, withholding taxes and tax on property gain);114
  2. indirect taxes (consumption taxes (value-added tax (VAT)), taxes on possession or ownership and on expenditure).115

Most international sports organisations based in Switzerland benefit from tax exemptions in their respective cantons.116 A good example of this is the IOC, which, like all international federations based in the canton of Vaud, does not pay direct tax.117 It was also exempt, for a limited period of time, from VAT.118

The income of employed and self-employed athletes who are non-Swiss residents is subject to withholding tax in respect of the income generated from their participation in sports events in Switzerland. Taxable income consists of all gross earnings (allowances, value in-kind contributions, and earnings paid to a third party, such as an organiser, manager or agent).119 The applicable tax rates and allowed deductions are fixed at federal level but vary considerably at cantonal level.120

Most double taxation treaties entered into by Switzerland follow Article 17 of the Model Tax Convention published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)121 and do not alter these rules.

Specific sports issues

i Doping

The Federal Act on the Promotion of Sport and Exercise (Sport Promotion Act or LEsp) and its implementing Ordinance provide statutory regulations for the fight against doping in Switzerland.

Measures comprise restriction of the supply of prohibited substances, the execution of doping controls and the authorisation of private bodies to perform such controls, exchange of data and sanctions.122 Criminal sanctions include penalties or imprisonment for a period of up to five years, or both.123

Criminal sanctions may be imposed on anyone who, for doping purposes, manufactures, acquires, imports, exports, transports, distributes, sells, prescribes, markets, administers or possesses doping substances, or applies prohibited methods to other persons.124

The Ordinance includes an exhaustive list of prohibited substances and methods.125 While there are significant overlaps, the list does not fully correspond with WADA's Prohibited List.126

In addition, athletes are subject to the anti-doping regulations of sports governing bodies and WADA and may be sanctioned for doping offences pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).127

The WADC is implemented by the Doping Statute of the National Olympic Committee of Switzerland, Swiss Olympic,128 with binding effects to all its member associations. Antidoping Switzerland is officially recognised by the Swiss authorities and by WADA as the national anti-doping organisation. 129

Most recent cases that led to criminal sanctions under the LESp relate to the illegal production and distribution of doping substances in bodybuilding.130

On the international sports scene, the CAS regularly renders awards in the field of doping. These proceedings usually concern appeals filed by athletes against sanctions handed down following anti-doping rule violations. Recent cases involve high-profile swimmers Sun Yang and Shayna Jack.131

ii Betting

Betting in Switzerland is governed by the Federal Gaming Act (LJAr), which replaced the Federal Lottery Act and the Casinos Act in 2019. It allows betting in principle, but subjects it to strict regulation and licensing requirements.132 The Swiss Gaming Concordat complements this framework at cantonal level.

Many international sports federations based in Switzerland, such as FIFA, IIHF and the IOC, have also adopted rules prohibiting illegal betting,133 which trickle down to national levels. Officials, referees and players are usually prohibited from betting on games of their own sports, and sharing sensitive information, subject to sanctions.134

Finally, sports organisations, such as UEFA, often enter into cooperation agreements with law enforcement agencies and operators of betting fraud detection systems.135

iii Match-fixing and manipulation in sports

Switzerland is part of the Council of Europe's Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (the Macolin Convention), which entered into force in 2019.136

Match-fixing is, in its modern form, often related to betting.137 As a result, Switzerland took the opportunity of the revision of its gaming legislation138 to implement its international commitments. Novelties include the classification of the manipulation of sports results as a criminal offence,139 requirements imposed on betting operators,140 and exchange of information between authorities, sports organisations and betting operators.141

Sports organisations are required to file a report to the competent authority if there is a suspicion of manipulation of a competition that is either taking place in Switzerland or on which sports betting is offered in Switzerland.142

They have also taken a variety of measures to combat match-fixing, ranging from reporting obligations to sanctioning and monitoring regimes.143

These efforts are illustrated by a recent UEFA decision imposing a 10-year ban from European competitions and a fine of €1 million on an Albanian football club for match-fixing. This decision has been upheld both by the CAS144 and the SFT.145

iv Grey market sales

The Swiss legislation on unfair competition (LCD) provides some protection against abuse and deception in relation to the resale of tickets.146

From 2010 to 2015, three parliamentary interventions from the National Council147 addressed the issue of grey market sales, asking the Swiss Federal Council148 to prohibit purely and simply the resale of tickets at a higher price.149

The Federal Council considered that the existing framework was sufficient, and that further measures would be contrary to the fundamental principles of free competition, economic freedom and the guarantee of property. It also highlighted that the supervision of the grey market sales is primarily the responsibility of event organisers rather than states.150 The National Council shared this opinion and renounced initiating a legislation process.151

The year in review

i Anti-doping

In December 2020, the CAS issued its long-awaited decision in the arbitration procedure between WADA and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), following allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.152

The procedure involved 50 intervening parties, including the IOC, the Russian Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the IIHF.153

The CAS determined RUSADA to be non-compliant with the WADC.154 However, it only partially upheld WADA's requests to have 'consequences' imposed on Russian sport. The CAS imposed sanctions for a limited duration of two years, while allowing Russian athletes who are not serving a suspension for doping to compete without additional special eligibility requirements, but with restrictions as to the use of the Russian flag, symbol, name or anthem.155 The CAS admitted that such 'consequences' were not as severe as WADA wanted,156 as it took into account the principle of proportionality, as well as the need to promote a change in culture and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport.157

In the same month, the SFT overturned for the first time a CAS award for lack of impartiality on the part of an arbitrator in the case of suspended Chinese swimmer Sun Yang.158

This judgment followed a CAS award that handed down an eight-year suspension to Sun Yang,159 and the subsequent discovery that the president of the CAS panel, Franco Frattini, had made racist comments on social networks.160

The reasoning of the SFT, called upon to review an arbitral award that had already become effective, is not formally based on Article 190(2)a PILA, but on the grounds for review.161 However, it contains interesting considerations regarding the impartiality of arbitrators and challenge:

In principle, an arbitrator can also defend his convictions on social networks, but with the restraint required of judges. The choice of words and the repeated use of violent expressions is problematic in the specific case. In his tweets, the arbitrator castigates a Chinese practice of dog slaughter and denounces the consumption of this meat at a local festival in China. Some expressions refer to the skin colour of certain Chinese people he targets. In addition, the arbitrator also made the said remarks in tweets after his appointment as president of the panel of arbitrators deciding in the Sun Yang case. In view of all the relevant circumstances, the Federal Supreme Court therefore considered that the doubts as to the impartiality of the arbitrator were objectively justified.162

The SFT thus referred the case back to the CAS,163 which ruled in a new composition in June 2021 and imposed on Sun Yang a suspension of four years and three months, based on the increased flexibility introduced by the new WADC in 2021.164

ii Covid-19

The covid-19 outbreak was declared a 'public health emergency of international concern' by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January 2020, leading governments all around the world to order their citizens to stay at home.165 The economic and social crisis it brought in its wake also affected the world of sport, which saw a series of competition cancellations, disruptions in the decision-making processes and cash-flow issues.

Thus, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed to the following year,166 while national competitions were suspended and then held behind closed doors, following government or sports organisations' orders.167

The IOC had to provide US$100 million to the Olympic Movement, so as to avoid the bankruptcy of small organisations.168 Many prestigious clubs and leagues worldwide, in football and other sports, initiated negotiations with their players with the view to reducing salaries during the suspension of their respective championships or beyond, with varied outcomes.169

Associations and companies were forced to postpone their general meetings, or eventually hold them virtually, with all the organisational complications that this entails.

Switzerland was not spared either. The Swiss government decided, by way of ordinance, to ban events with more than 1,000 people as of 28 February 2020, to prohibit gatherings of more than five people from 20 March 2020 and then to allow a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions from 6 June 2020.170 As a result, all major one-time sporting events, such as the 2020 World Ice Hockey Championship, scheduled to be held in Zurich, had to be cancelled.171 The 2019–2020 ice hockey season was cancelled in its entirety and at all levels, like the third-tier football season, with no national champion crowned or team promoted.172 Only the first two divisions of the football championship (Super League and Challenge League) restarted in June behind closed doors, after consultation with all stakeholders.173

This situation raised much controversy among football clubs, some of them going so far as to launch legal action against their governing bodies.

FC Sion, one of the two professional clubs that voted against a restart of the season, lodged a claim with the COMCO on an alleged abuse of market dominant position by the Swiss Football League (SFL).174 The Commission rejected its complaint, stating that the SFL's decision to resume the season was not made with the intent to distort.175

Conversely, Yverdon Sport and FC Rapperswil, which both hoped for promotion in Challenge League until their results were annulled, filed appeals against the Swiss Football Association (ASF) with the CAS.176 The CAS dismissed both appeals, retaining that, in view of the sanitary situation at that time, the ASF had not breached its regulations nor acted arbitrarily.177 Similarly, it considered that the disputed decision did not constitute a hindrance of competition and therefore did not violate the Cartel Act.178

Simultaneously, several clubs, such as FC Sion and Basel, attempted to lower their financial charges by reducing players' salaries.179 While these negotiations went smoothly at FC Basel, they caused a stir at FC Sion, where nine players were dismissed.180

The Swiss government offered sports clubs financial aid by means of loans with a deferred repayment date and joint liability, as well as non-repayable contributions, in return for a reduction in salary, the renunciation of the distribution of dividends and equality promotion.181

It also allowed sports associations and other entities to hold virtual meetings or make decisions by correspondence even if their statutes did not provide for such a possibility.182

iii Financial fair-play

Financial Fair Play (FFP) was introduced by UEFA in 2009 with a specific aim: curbing the phenomenon of over-indebtedness of European football clubs by prohibiting them from spending more money than they earn.183

In July 2020, the CAS overturned Manchester City's two-year ban from European competition and the club's fine was also cut from €30 million to €10 million.184 It considered that most of the alleged breaches of FFP rules were either not established or time-barred.185

This award, coupled with the covid-19 crisis, led UEFA to announce a complete overhaul of its system in March 2021.186 Among the options under consideration is the introduction of a solidarity mechanism allowing clubs to exceed the wage bill or investment limit in return for the payment of penalties, which will then be redistributed to other clubs.187

Outlook and conclusions

Sports law is a transversal law, in that it involves many areas of ordinary law, such as association and corporate law, civil and criminal liability, labour law, intellectual property law, antitrust law and tax law.

This is a fast-growing and constantly evolving field, as evidenced by recent legal, but also socio-economic, developments.

Swiss law plays a substantial role in this context, because of the presence of 70 international sports organisations, including the CAS, on its territory.


1 Alexandra Veuthey and Claude Ramoni are attorneys at Libra Law.

2 Denis Oswald, in collaboration with A Veuthey and Y Hafner, 'Associations, Fondations et Autres Formes de Personnes Morales au Service du Sport', Peter Lang, 2010, p. 33.

3 ibid.

4 ibid.

5 Most of them are located in Lausanne (

8 UEFA Statutes (2021), Article 1 (

13 According to a review of the Swiss Federal Office of Sport, more than 19,000 sports clubs forming part (through their relevant national federations) of Swiss Olympics are organised as associations (M Lamprecht et al, 'Sportvereine in der Schweiz, Bundesamt für Sport BASPO', Magglingen 2017, p. 7).

14 Articles 64 and 67 CC.

15 Arthur Meier-Hayoz et al, Schweizerisches 'Gesellschaftsrecht mit neuem Firmen- und künftigem Handelsregisterrecht und unter Einbezug der Aktienrechtsreform', 12th ed., Stämpfli 2018, footnote 50, p. 763 (which mentions the need for valid reasons). See, e.g., Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) Statutes (2020), Article 23(4) (

17 ITA Statutes (2019), Articles 1 and 2 (

18 In football, Article 12 of the Swiss Football League (SFL) Statutes even mandate this form for first-division clubs (Super League) ( See, e.g., FC Basel 1893 AG, Grasshopper AG, Neuchâtel Xamax 1912 SA.

19 See, e.g., EHC Kloten Sport AG.

20 Article 692(1) CO.

21 Commentaire romand, Code Civil I, Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1st ed., 2005, N10 ad Article 64 CC.

22 According to Swiss legal commentators, an association is deemed to be engaged in a commercial activity if its annual gross revenue is equal to or greater than 100,000 Swiss francs (Article 36 Ordinance on the Commercial Register by analogy; see, e.g., D Oswald, footnote 2 above, p. 42). However, this interpretation is controversial, and is not supported by the Swiss Confederation, which states on its website that 'Anyone who wishes to do business through an association must register it with the trade register' (

23 The association must submit its accounts to a full audit by external auditors if two of the following figures are exceeded in two successive business years: total assets of 10 million Swiss francs; turnover of 20 million Swiss francs; average annual total of 50 full-time staff (Article 69b(1) CC).

24 New Article 61 will make compulsory the registration of associations 'which primarily collect or distribute, directly or indirectly, funds abroad, directly or indirectly, for charitable, religious, cultural, educational or social purposes'.

25 Article 69a CC.

26 Articles 81 and 83 et seq. CO.

27 Articles 640 and 727 et seq. CO.

28 Article 55 CO.

29 Article 754(1) CO.

30 Article 102(1) CP.

31 Article 102(2) CP.

32 For more details about this review, and its impact on individuals and legal persons, see, e.g., Jörg Kilchmann, 'Le Nouveau droit pénal de la corruption', KPMG, Audit Committee News, 2017 (

33 See, e.g., the FIFA Code of Ethics, which formed the basis for various lifetime bans and fines of 1 million Swiss francs on high-profile sports managers, including Yves Jean-Bart and Karim Keramuddin.

34 The CAS seat is in Lausanne, regardless of the location where the hearing takes places ( and Code of Sports-Related Arbitration (CAS Code), Article R28).

35 For more details, see Antonio Rigozzi, 'L'arbitrage international en matière de sport', Helbing & Lichtenhahn, pp. 309 et seq.

36 Interview of Matthieu Reeb, CAS General Secretary, of 5 August 2016, in Le Temps newspaper (

38 CAS Code, Article 27. See also R Downie, 'Improving the Performance of Sports Ultimate Umpire: Reforming the Governance of the Court of Arbitration for Sport' (2011) 12 Melbourne Journal of International Law 317.

39 i.e., disputes that are not at the free disposal of the parties or claims not involving an economic interest pursuant to Articles 353 of the Swiss Civil Procedure Code (CPC) and 177 of the Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA).

40 e.g., the award of a penalty to a team.

41 For more details about the distinction between rules of play and rules of law and its consequences, see, e.g., SFT 120 II 369, Section 2, and the references mentioned.

42 SFT 119 II 271.

43 SFT 129 III 445.

44 See, e.g., SFT 144 III 120; and judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 2 October 2018, Mutu and Pechstein v. Switzerland, requests Nos. 40575/10 and 67474/10.

45 See judgment Mutu and Pechstein, Sections 54 et seq. An arbitration is considered to be 'forced' when the acceptance of the arbitration clause is not a 'free, lawful and unequivocal' choice (Sections 94 et seq.).

46 See Articles 190(2) PILA and 393 CPC.

47 An arbitration is deemed international if at least one party to the arbitration agreement had its domicile or habitual residence outside Switzerland at the time of the conclusion of the arbitration agreement (Article 176(1) PILA).

48 Articles 177 PILA and 353 CPC.

49 Articles 180(1)c PILA and 367(1)c CPC.

50 Articles 182(3) PILA and 373(4) CPC.

51 Articles185 PILA and 356 CPC.

52 Daniel Eisele et al, 'Comparative Legal Guide to Switzerland Arbitration', 2018, p. 2 (

53 For more details, see the Swiss Parliament website (

54 ibid.

55 The CAS Code is available on the CAS website (

56 Article R45 CAS Code states: 'The Panel shall decide the dispute according to the rules of law chosen by the parties or, in the absence of such a choice, according to Swiss law. The parties may authorise the Panel to decide ex aequo et bono.'

57 Article 58 CAS Code states: 'The Panel shall decide the dispute according to the applicable regulations and, subsidiarily, to the rules of law chosen by the parties or, in the absence of such a choice, according to the law of the country in which the federation, association or sports-related body which has issued the challenged decision is domiciled or according to the rules of law the Panel deems appropriate. In the latter case, the Panel shall give reasons for its decision.'

58 Lugano Convention on the Jurisdiction, Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters.

59 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

60 See judgment of the SFT 4A_388/2012 of 18 March 2013, Section 3.3.

61 SFT 121 III 350, Sections 6 a and b (Grossen).

62 The organiser will in particular be entitled to invoke an interruption of the causal link (Articles 41 and 97 CO) or, at least, a concomitant fault of the victim (Article 44 CO).

63 Article 27 CC.

64 Michele Bernasconi et al, Switzerland, 'Switzerland, Law and Practice', 31 March 2021, Section 3.2 (

65 For more details, see Alexandra Veuthey, 'Concussion in Professional Team Sports: Time for a Harmonised Approach?', Springer, 2020.

66 The doctrine of voluntary assumption of risk (also known as volenti non fit injuria) implies that athletes are taken to accept the risks of injuries inherent to their sport. It is common in many different legal systems.

67 See, e.g., CAS 2013/A/3280, HC Olten & Ronny Keller v. Stefan Schneider and SIHF.

68 See, e.g., SFT 109 IV 102; 121 IV 102.

69 See, e.g., SFT 124 IV 26; 145 IV 154.

70 Andras Gurovits and Niklaus Hatz, The Sports Law Review: Switzerland, 2020, p. 241.

71 Alexandra Veuthey and Denis Oswald, 'Les mesures juridiques de lutte contre le hooliganisme en Suisse', in Pascal Mahon, Minh Son Nguyen (eds), L'activité et l'espace, Droit du sport et aménagement du territoire, Mélanges en l'honneur du Professeur Piermarco Zen-Ruffinen, Helbing & Lichtenhahn, pp. 86–7.

72 Articles 24 et seq. LMSI and 3b et seq. CVMS.

73 Article 3a CVMS.

74 For more details, see the EBU website (

75 See, e.g., the company Kirchgroup, which was then integrated into a newly created entity, Infront (

76 For more details, see the SSR website (

77 Jean-Pierre Morand, 'Les contrats de parrainage d'événements sportifs', in Droit et sport, Stämpfli 1997 pp. 21 et seq.; 'Le contrat de sponsoring individuel', in Publication FSA (volume 17), Berne (FSA/SAV) 2002, p. 44.

78 Philipp Engel, 'Sponsoring im Sport: Vertragsrechtliche Aspekte', Schultess 2009, pp. 60 et seq.; CAS 91/45, W c X. SA, Section 23, and the references mentioned. Mixed contracts are those that combine several components of various named contracts, without the combination itself being expressly provided for by law. Sui generis contracts include elements that are, at least in part, not regulated by law.

79 Article 28 CC.

80 Article 28a CC.

81 Article 2(1) LDA.

82 Articles 9 et seq. and 16 et seq. LDA.

83 Articles 5 and 61 et seq. LDA.

84 Article 65 LDA.

85 Articles 41 et seq. CO.

86 Article 423 CO.

87 Articles 67 et seq. CO.

88 Article 2(1) LDA.

89 Articles 2(1) and 2(2)g LDA; Thomas Hügi, Sportrecht, Stämpfli 2015, p. 195.

90 For more details, see Articles 28 et seq. LPM and the IPI website (

91 For more details, see Articles 41 et seq. LPM and the WIPO website (

92 Articles 13 and 51 et seq. LPM.

93 Article 361 CO.

94 Article 362 CO.

95 Articles 6 et seq. LTr (in conjunction with related Ordinances).

96 Hügi, footnote 89 above; footnote 53, pp. 276 et seq.

97 Articles 2 et seq., 13 and 39 LSE (in conjunction with related Ordinance).

98 Article 3 LEg.

99 For more details about this agreement, see the State Secretariat for Migration website ( It must be noted that the ALCP no longer applies to UK citizens because of Brexit.

100 Kurt Rohner/Adrian Wymann, 'Das Freizügigkeitsabkommen mit der EU und der Schweizer Sport – Konsequenzen für die Arbeitsverhältnisse', CaS 2004, p. 5.

101 Article 2 ALCP.

102 Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

103 Articles 18 et seq. and 23 (3) b LEI.

104 In ice hockey, no more than four foreign players shall be on the roster for a particular game.

105 These standard contracts are available on the Swiss Football League (SFL) and Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) websites ( and

106 See Section II ii.

107 Article 2(1) LCart.

108 Article 5(1) LCart.

109 Article 7(1) LCart.

110 Articles 9 et seq. LCart.

111 Judgment of the Civil Court of the Canton of Vaud of 30 January 2018, No. 1/2018/JMN.

112 See Section IX.ii.

113 Articles 3 and 128 Cst.

114 See Article 1 Federal Law on Direct Federal Tax (LIFD), Article 2 Federal Law on the Harmonisation of Direct Taxes of the Cantons and Communes (LHID) and cantonal legislations.

115 See, e.g., Federal Act on Value Added Tax (VAT Act).

116 See press release of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) of 5 December 2008 (

117 ibid.

118 Bernard Wuthrich, 'Le Conseil des Etats fait un cadeau de deux millions de francs par année au CIO', in Le Temps, 1 October 1998 (

119 Articles 92 LIFD, 35 and 36 LHID and cantonal legislations.

120 ibid.

121 For more details about this Model Tax Convention, see the OECD website (

122 See Articles 19 et seq. LESp and 73 et seq. Ordinance (OESp).

123 Article 22 LESp.

124 ibid.

125 See Annex.

127 The WADC is available on the WADA website (

128 For more details about Swiss Olympic, see The Swiss Olympic Doping Statutes are available on the Antidoping Switzerland website (

129 For more details about Antidoping Switzerland, see

130 See, e.g., SFT 6B_49/2019.

131 CAS A1/2020, Shayna Jack v. Swimming Australia & ASADA. For Sun Yang, see Section IX.i.

132 Articles 1 et seq. LJAR.

133 See FIFA Code of Ethics, IIHF Code of Conduct and IOC's Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions, which are available on the websites of those organisations.

134 For a recent case, see, e.g., that of football player Kieran Trippier, who was suspended for 10 weeks and fined by the English Football Association after revealing information to his friends about his future transfer to Atlético Madrid. An appeal is currently pending before the CAS.

135 UEFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Europol for mutual support, exchange of information and education programmes, and cooperates with Sportradar to detect irregular betting movements.

136 For more detail about this Convention, see the Council of Europe website (

137 Alexandra Veuthey, 'Match-Fixing and Governance in Cricket and Football: What is the Fix?', (2014) 14(1) International Sports Law Journal, pp. 82–3.

138 See Section VIII.ii.

139 See Article 25a LESp, which was introduced following the adoption of the LJAR.

140 Articles 64 et seq. LJAR.

141 ibid.

142 Article 64(2) LJAR. For more details, see the report of the Swiss Gambling Supervisory Authority of 6 May 2021 (

143 See Section VIII.ii.

144 CAS 2017/A/5734, KS Skënderbeu v. UEFA.

145 SFT_4A_462/2019.

146 See Articles 9, 10 and 23 LCD.

147 The National Council is the lower house of the Parliament.

148 The Federal Council constitutes the Federal government of Switzerland.

149 Postulat No. 15,3397, 'Sanctionner la revente de billets d'entrée à une manifestation à des prix surfaits'; motion No. 14,3378, 'Interdire la revente de billets à prix majoré'; and Interpellation No. 10,378, 'Concerts et manifestations sportives, Marché gris des billets'.

150 ibid.

151 ibid.

152 CAS 2020/0/6689, WADA v. RUSADA.

153 ibid., Sections 1 et seq.; and press release of the CAS of 17 June 2020 (

154 CAS 2020/0/6689, WADA v. RUSADA, Section 675.

155 ibid., Sections 739 et seq. and 793 et seq.

156 ibid., Section 861.

157 ibid., Sections 719 et seq.

158 SFT 4A_318/2020.

159 CAS 2019/A/6148, WADA v. Sun Yang & FINA.

160 SFT 4A_318/2020, Section 4.2.

161 ibid., Sections 4.1ss.

163 SFT 4A_318/2020, Sections 7.9 and 8.

164 CAS 2019/A/6148, Sections 293 et seq.; and press release of the CAS of 22 June 2021 (

165 Listings of WHO's response to covid-19, WHO, 29 June 2020 (; and Alasdair Stanford, 'Coronavirus: Half of humanity now on lockdown as 90 countries call for confinement', Euronews, 3 April 2020 (

167 In May 2020, all football championships worldwide were on hold, apart from Turkmenistan, Belarus and Nicaragua.

168 Press release, 'IOC has already provided around US$100 million of financial support to Olympic Movement', IOC, 15 July 2020 ( million-of-financial-support-to-olympic-movement).

169 For example, FC Barcelona players accepted a 70 per cent temporary salary reduction as a sign of solidarity. In other instances, football players opposed to salary reduction sometimes terminated their employment contracts, leading to litigation before FIFA. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) retained that the players had terminated their contract with just cause despite the financial difficulties encountered by their clubs because of the covid-19 outbreak (see, however, FIFA DRC of 24 November 2020, Mbida v. Besiktas, where the Chamber accepted a 15 per cent reduction for three months).

171 Adam Steiss, '2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship cancelled', IIHF, 21 March 2020 (

172 See press release of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) of 13 March 2020 (; and press release of the Swiss Football Association (ASF) of 30 April 2020 (

174 See press release of the COMCO of 11 June 2020 (

175 ibid.

176 CAS 2020/A/7065 & CAS 2020/A/7066, Sections 18 et seq.

177 ibid., Sections 66 et seq.

178 ibid., Sections 124 et seq.

179 Article, 'Super League: Bâle trouve un accord avec ses joueurs pour les salaires', RTS, 22 April 2020 (; Augustin Bouyssou, 'Coronavirus: Le FC Sion licencie neuf joueurs qui avaient refusé le chômage technique', Le Figaro, 20 March 2020 (

180 ibid.

181 See press release of the Swiss Federal Council of 18 November 2020 (

182 Ordonnance 3 sur les mesures destinées à lutter contre le coronavirus (COVID-19) (Ordonnance 3 COVID-19), Article 27(1) and related FAQ on coronavirus and general meetings available on the Swiss Federal Office of Justice website (

184 CAS 2020/A/6785, Manchester City v. UEFA, Sections 199 et seq., in particular 343.

185 ibid.

186 Paul MacInnes, 'Football's financial fair play rules to be ripped up after Covid crisis', The Guardian, 25 March 2021(

187 Julien Absalon, 'Ceferin en dit plus sur la réforme du fair-play financier pour permettre de dépenser de l'argent', RMC Sport, 28 May 2021(

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