Following a meeting in Uruguay in February 2015, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association of Football ("CONCACAF"), and the Confederation for South American Football ("CONMEBOL"), announced that a committee would be formed to consider establishing the Cayman Islands as the jurisdiction of choice for hearing and resolving all legal disputes arising in relation to football matters within the Americas. Based on the announcement, it is envisioned that this process will be fully implemented within the next few months.
When implemented, each of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL has agreed to refer all legal disputes arising in connection with football in the region for arbitration in the Cayman Islands and will include clauses in all contracts that each of them enter into requiring the parties to have any disputes arising from those contracts subject to arbitration in the Cayman Islands. The likely disputes would cover a broad range from matters of a purely sporting nature such as enforcement of tournament rules, to more commercial matters such as contractual relationships with the confederations and their external partners, suppliers and sponsors. Internal disputes of an administrative nature, such as the governance of the confederations and enforcement of their regulations and statutes, will also be referred to the jurisdiction for resolution.
The decision to consider the Cayman Islands as the jurisdiction to hear all disputes of a footballing nature is a direct result of the jurisdiction's implementation on 2 July 2012 of a new Arbitration Law 2012 (the "Law"). The Law applies to all arbitrations where the seat of the arbitration is the Cayman Islands, regardless of where the parties are based. The Law governs issues such as the conduct of the arbitration and the enforcement of Cayman Islands arbitral awards within the jurisdiction. An arbitral tribunal appointed under the Law has wide powers and for all practical purposes is able to award any interim or final remedy that a court could have granted if the dispute in question had been the subject of court proceedings. The Law gives the parties the freedom to tailor the arbitral proceedings according to their needs but also provides a set of default provisions which apply in the absence of agreement. The Law has certain mandatory provisions designed to protect the integrity of the arbitration process, for example, by ensuring that the tribunal maintains its impartiality throughout the arbitration and is free of conflicts of interest. The Law expressly recognises that arbitration proceedings are to be confidential and arbitral awards may only be challenged in the Cayman Islands courts under the limited grounds set out in the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
The Law is closely modelled on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and the English Arbitration Act 1996. Accordingly, in addition to being founded upon internationally recognised standards, there is an existing body of case law to guide parties and their advisors on the interpretation and implementation of the Law in any football-related arbitration being heard in the Cayman Islands.
Other factors contributing to the Cayman Islands standing as a seat for international arbitrations are that it is a neutral offshore venue with access to international gateways, making travel to any arbitration hearings cost effective and time efficient, and excellent telecommunications enabling hearings to be conducted via videolink. In addition, there are a number of experienced legal advisors and other professional service providers readily available to assist with proceedings. Any court proceedings that may be necessary to support any arbitration proceedings would be allocated to the Financial Services Division of the Grand Court, which has considerable experience of dealing with arbitration-related matters. It is envisaged that by referring all disputes in relation to football matters arising in the Americas for arbitration in the Cayman Islands, it will provide additional momentum for the further development of the infrastructure to support arbitrations in the Islands and create a larger pool of experienced practitioners and arbitrators.