Challenges to the rules

Decisions of sports governing bodies

Given the money and prestige at stake in elite sport, it should be no surprise that the rules that sports governing bodies issue, are subject to critical legal scrutiny, and may well be subjected to legal challenge and judicial scrutiny in the courts or in arbitration proceedings. We are expert on the grounds for successful challenge of the rules and decisions of sports bodies. We know how to draft rules and craft decisions to minimise the chances of successful challenge, and we know how the courts and arbitral panels will assess those rules and decisions and what it takes to win in court, whether for the governing body defending its actions or for the stakeholder challenging those actions.

Case studies

International Cricket Council (ICC):  We advised the ICC on its handling of various breaches of its membership obligations by the USA Cricket Association (USACA), including initially the suspension of USACA’s membership and eventually, when it failed to comply with the reinstatement conditions set by the ICC, the expulsion of USACA from membership by the members in general meeting. Prior to expulsion, USACA brought an expedited challenge to the ICC’s actions before an independent arbitration panel. We represented the ICC in a four day trial that culminated in a lengthy decision dismissing USACA’s challenge and confirming the ICC board’s actions.

World Athletics:  In 2020 we successfully defended the appeal by double amputee Blake Leeper against World Athletics’ decision that he could not compete in its competitions on carbon fibre blades. We used expert evidence to persuade the CAS panel that those blades gave him an artificial and therefore an unfair advantage over those not using such blades, click here for more information.

Key Contacts

Jonathan Taylor, Max Duthie


Bird & Bird “acts for an enviable client base of leading international federations, governing bodies, sports clubs and corporate entities.”

chambers, 2021