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Organisation of sports clubs and sports governing bodies

Argentina has a long and well-known sports tradition. Attempting to write a review of the regulations of all sports in Argentina is a daunting task and would, undoubtedly, exceed the scope of this chapter. It is therefore necessary to establish an, albeit arbitrary, narrower scope.

To that end, we have made an initial distinction between team sports and individual sports. This review will focus on the former. Once this distinction is made, it is necessary to choose a subset of the existing team sports. For these purposes, we have chosen to focus on those sports where, at the national team level, Argentina is considered to be among the world's elite. This means sports for which a global competition exists and the Argentine national team has reached no less than the quarter finals in the most recent occurrence of the global competition.

Thus, this chapter will focus on the following sports: football, rugby, field hockey, basketball and volleyball.

However, the Sports Law regulates the promotion of sporting activities throughout the country. The stated purpose of the Sports Law is to promote sports in all its forms.

The Sports Law defines a sporting institution as an association whose stated purpose is the practice, development, maintenance, organisation and representation of sport or any of its variations. The Sports Law further creates a Registry of Sporting Institutions. Registration in said registry is a requirement to participate in organised sports, both amateur and professional.

In 2019, by means of Decree 92/2019 the Agencia de Deporte Nacional (the Agency) was created as the Sports Law's new enforcement body. One of the Agency's main purposes is to contribute to the operational efficiency required in sports.

i Organisational form

Each particular sport is regulated by its own governing body. At the national level, only in football are the individual clubs associated with the governing body. For rugby, field hockey, basketball and volleyball, clubs are associated with a regional federation or association, and the regional federations or associations are then associated with a national confederation.

This confederation issues the regulations at a national level and is then associated with the international sports governing entities.

Thus, football is regulated by the Association of Argentinian Football (AFA), which is further affiliated to both the South American Football Confederation and FIFA (a regional South American entity and worldwide entity, respectively). Rugby is regulated by the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR), which is further affiliated to the International Rugby Board. Hockey is regulated by the Argentine Confederation of Hockey (CAH), which is related to the International Hockey Federation. Basketball is regulated by the Argentine Confederation of Basketball (CABB), which is related to the International Basketball Federation. Finally, volleyball is regulated by the Argentine Volleyball Federation (FeVA), further related to the International Volleyball Federation.

The regulatory entities and associations, at both the regional and the national level, adopt the legal form of a not-for-profit civil association. Further, teams are also civil associations and are not to be profit-making entities. There are historical reasons why this is the case: where teams were originally formed within neighbourhood clubs, the clubs eventually adopted this organisational form, and this has been maintained over time.

Even with the advent of professionalism (within the limits that will be referred to in this chapter) and the success of Argentine players and teams at a global level, the basic entity that unifies the players is a not-for-profit entity. And it is unlikely that this will change in the near future. As mentioned, the Sports Law defines a sporting institution as an association. This would seem to exclude any type of company or corporation being considered as a sporting institution and allowed to participate in organised sports. By way of example, the AFA regulations expressly prohibit affiliated entities from being commercial entities.

Decree 92/2019 established a quota for the lists submitted for the election of members of the board of directors in first-grade civil associations. In this sense, the lists must be composed of a minimum of 20 per cent of women and young people, altogether.

In addition, the above-mentioned decree set a maximum period of two years for mandates of presidents of first and second degree civil sports associations, civil sports associations of national representation and presidents from the Sport and Physical Activity Institutional System.

ii Corporate governance

As mentioned, other than the Sports Law, which is a general law related to the promotion of sports in and of themselves, there is no unified regulation for sports entities. Having said this, there are certain general principles that apply to all clubs and institutions.

Most of these principles do not vary from general corporate governance principles for associations or other legal entities in Argentina. A description of all these principles would vastly exceed the scope of this chapter; however, these generally refer to a prudent administration of resources; accountability and transparency in the decision-making processes; and conflict of interest regulations.

However, there are certain specific requirements that are imposed by the different governing entities. In this sense, for instance, the AFA requires that the clubs affiliated to the AFA have separate accounting for professional football-related matters.

iii Corporate liability

There are no specific statutory provisions for liability of managers and officers of a sports organisation. General corporate liability provisions would apply. Sports entities are not corporate entities (in the sense that corporate entities are commercial entities). As mentioned, sports entities are associations that are not for profit.

In that sense, in general, there are no specific regulations relating to sports that attach liability for managers and officers for the simple fact that the individual occupies this a role. The main exception to this lack of regulation is Law 23,184, as amended (for the prevention of violence in sporting events), which establishes the liability of managers and officers, as such and not in their personal capacity, for violations to the obligations imposed under said law.

The regulatory documents of each of the sports governing entities establish that managers and officers of sports organisations may be subject to disciplinary action if they commit any of the actions described in the relevant regulations in their role as managers. Liability is not given because the individual is an officer of an entity, but the action that the individual committed is punishable because the individual is a manager.

Likewise, managers and officers are subject to anti-doping regulations, not because of the liability of the club they represent, but a personal liability where they have to have been personally involved.

The dispute resolution system

There is no single dispute resolution system for sports. Each sport has its own dispute resolution system with its own regulations and systems of appeals. In general, most sports governing entities establish an independent dispute resolution system for disciplinary matters, where most establish a two-tiered system for disciplinary hearings and measures.

The references below are to the national governing body of each sport. Most regional entities have similar, if not identical, regulations. Additionally, most entities replicate, at least partially, the general disciplinary systems established by the global governing entity.

i Access to courts

AFA regulations expressly state that the decisions issued by the Tribunal of Sports Discipline are final and unappealable, except in certain cases where the sanction is particularly burdensome. Further, among the obligations of the AFA's member clubs is the obligation not to access judicial courts in any dispute that a member may have with the AFA.

This being said, certain matters are referred to judicial courts, mainly relating to employment matters. Further, civil liability matters are also referred to courts and if the plaintiff is a player, the action that caused the damage would exceed ordinary play and disciplinary action taken by the sport's governing entity.

For rugby, field hockey, basketball and volleyball the applicable regulations establish a two-tiered system for disciplinary measures, with an initial tribunal and an appellate tribunal. Access to courts is granted, as none of the regulations specifically prevents access to courts or establish a mechanism of access to courts.

ii Sports arbitration

Given that each sport's governing entity has its own method of discipline, there are no provisions for sports arbitration for matters related to incidents at sporting events.

Further, employment matters are barred, by applicable labour regulations, from being referred to arbitration. Thus, sports matters related to employment cannot be referred to arbitration.

Finally, civil liability matters are, by their very nature, not subject to arbitration through a pre-agreed arbitration agreement.

iii Enforceability

Enforceability of decisions of the governing bodies is not so much a legal issue as a factual issue. Although the governing entities have the power to suspend any entity that does not accept a disciplinary decision, the most relevant power for enforcing decisions is the monetary power each governing body has over the clubs and entities.

Each of the sports governing bodies controls the financing of the sport and the clubs where that sport is practised. Therefore, any decision by any disciplinary tribunal that is not accepted and enacted by a club may be met with de facto monetary sanctions. Thus, once instances of appeal are extinguished, sports clubs and teams accept the decision issued and act in accordance with said decision.