An extract from The Sports Law Review, 5th Edition

Organisation of sports clubs and sports governing bodies

Year after year, Venezuela's individual and team sports do the opposite of its economics and politics.

This chapter will guide you through its system, and try to simply and easily explain how Venezuela's sports law system is built up.

i Organisational form

First, the Sport, Physical Activity and Physical Education Act (the Sports Law Act), which is our current sports law, grants organisational autonomy to professional and amateur clubs. Therefore, they can decide on their organisational form. The criteria that classify different types of organisations distinguish between associative organisations and organisations of the People's Power; professional and non-professional clubs are considered associative organisations.

The Act specifically talks about organisational autonomy, under which clubs can dictate and sanction their statutes and internal regulations, and define their structure, on the basic content established in this law.

Non-professional clubs – which are conceived as organisations outside federative sports focused on promoting sports activities for educational, training, recreational, social and health purposes – have the support of public sector sports bodies and entities.

Professional sports clubs are the most popular expression of the associative sports system and are constituted under non-profit private law forms or by registration in the National Sports Registry, carried out in each municipality where the club is formed.

The National Sports institute is the sports governing body. Its organisational form consists of a main authority called the Directory. The Directory is formed of:

  1. a president, named by the President of Venezuela;
  2. five directors designated by the Ministry of Sports;
  3. a representative of the workers of the National Sports Institute;
  4. a representative of the National Athlete Commission;
  5. a representative of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee;
  6. a representative of the Venezuelan Paralympic Committee;
  7. a representative of the National Federations; and
  8. a representative of the sports legends of Venezuela.
ii Corporate governance

There are no specific laws that regulate sports organisations; however, we are of the opinion that sports organisations for profit and private law that carry out an economic management of sport would be subject to the Antitrust Law, which regulates the exercise of economic competition and sanctions actions that favour unfair competition.

Article 3 of this law states that natural and judicial organisations, either private or public, national or international, with profit or non-profit activities within Venezuela, are subject to this law.

iii Corporate liability

The Sports Law Act contains a chapter that lists violations of the law and their respective sanctions. It establishes the subjects of the disciplinary regime and its jurisdiction; among those subjects, are managers and technical staff of sports organisations. In these cases, the responsibility corresponds to natural subjects and can be attributed by social organisations promoting associative sport and by the Sports Justice Commission; the latter has prevalence.

The Sports Law obligates any sports organisation to establish within their by-laws a section of disciplinary regulations that covers at least the following:

  1. a detailed system of infractions, in accordance with the rules of the corresponding sport modality, graduating them according to their severity;
  2. principles and criteria that ensure differentiation between the mild, serious and very serious nature of the infractions;
  3. a detailed system of penalties, in accordance with the rules of the corresponding sports modality;
  4. a detailed system of gradation of sanctions corresponding to each one of the infractions, as well as the causes or circumstances that exempt, attenuate or aggravate the responsibility of the offender or infringer, its form of application and the requirements of extinction of responsibility;
  5. prohibition of double sanctions for the same facts, the application of favourable retroactive effects and sanctioning for non-typified infringements prior to the time of their commission; and
  6. application of the principles governing the exercise of disciplinary and sanctioning powers.

The process by which a responsibility is attributed is contemplated in the Organic Law of Administrative Procedures, with exception of any infractions made by a person in the developing of a sports meeting or a training session. No one may be sanctioned for life or for an indefinite period, and every person sanctioned shall have the right to an appeal before an instance higher than the body that ordered the sanction. Article 76 of the Sports Law Act states that:

The National Sports Institute is empowered to apply suspension or cancellation penalties for recognition, licenses and registrations to the leading and directing entities of social organizations promoting sports and professional sports when they incur violations of the law and its regulations or when the sports hierarchical entity of said organizations so requests it to the governing body, as a consequence of the violation of the statutory and regulatory provisions and once the administrative procedure has been fulfilled, in accordance with the Organic Law of Administrative Procedures, or the that is applicable in accordance with the legal system.

The dispute resolution system

i Access to courts

The Sports Law Act anticipated the Sports Justice Commission, which is entitled to rule the decisions referred to clubs, athletes and other sports stakeholders, when facing severe infractions such as contractual matters, doping, technical arbitration or electoral disputes controversies. The Commission is composed of a Sports Dispute Resolution Chamber, and a Mediation and Education Commission, in addition to a Lawyers Commission. These rulings are only appealable in the state courts.

The Commission's creation was approved in 2018 by the Venezuelan Olympic Committee and is now functioning.

ii Sports arbitration

Besides the Sports Justice Commission, is the Conciliation and Arbitration Business Centre (CEDCA), 'a non-profit civil association, founded in 1999, dedicated to promoting conciliation and arbitration as alternative methods for the economic and effective resolution of commercial disputes, within the framework of national and international legal system'. The CEDCA is an independent centre, linked to the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to which natural or legal persons, public or private, can go to solve their commercial conflicts.

Among the members of this organisation, there are many experts in sports law matters who could eventually constitute an arbitral court on sports-related conflicts.

Before the Sports Justice Commission and the CEDCA, any sports stakeholder can decide its sports-related matter to either local courts, the correspondent federation or arbitration courts.

iii Enforceability

As in many other areas of the law in Venezuela, while the legal framework is enough, the enforcement system is very weak. Once a decision is ruled by a sports governing body or an arbitral tribunal in Venezuela, it will be executed through the sports entity corresponding and is only appealable to the courts as an administrative dispute, in accordance with the provisions of the Sports Law Act. In this case, the actors will be facing a factual problem instead of a legal problem.