Sports Law: Update on the Pechstein Case

220px-Claudia_Pechstein_2008Regular readers of this blog will have followed our coverage of the Pechstein case, which, for the time being, came to an end with the June 2016 decision of the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), which held that the court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was a “proper” arbitral tribunal.

Claudia Pechstein challenged the 2016 decision of the Federal Supreme Court and brought a constitutional complaint (Verfassungsbeschwerde) to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). The matter now appears on the Federal Constitutional Court’s list of cases that are up for a decision in 2017. In the great German tradition of anonymous case reporting, this is how the matter is described on the Court’s website:

“Constitutional complaint of a professional athlete regarding the question whether a claim for damages may be dismissed as inadmissible due to the submission to the arbitral agreement of a sports federation and whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne constitutes an independent arbitral tribunal within the meaning of Section 1034 et seq of the German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO) (file no 1 BvR 2103/16).”*

The rapporteur for the case is Judge Yvonne Ott. She was appointed to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2016, after having served six years as a judge at the Federal Supreme Court.

As Jan F. Orth points out in his blog, the annual list needs to be taken with a pinch of salt; some cases remain on this list for ages, such as the constitutional complaint of a football supporter who challenged an order barring him from attending football matches all across the country. His complaint was filed in 2009, and has been on the annual list since 2013. Let’s hope that Claudia Pechsteins’ case is decided much quicker than that. First and foremost, however, Jan’s blog post contains a excellent summary of the weaknesses in the Federal Supreme Court’s reasoning.

Should Claudia Pechstein be successful, her jurisdictional journey will have come to an end – a journey that so far has taken her from Lausanne, seat of both the CAS and the Swiss Supreme Court (Bundesgericht), to Munich’s District Court (Landgericht) and Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht) and further to in Karlsruhe, where both the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Constitutional Court are located.  If Federal Constitutional Court were to find against her, Strasbourg and its European Court of Human Rights may be the final Destination.

* Das Bundesverfassungsgericht gibt jedes Jahr eine Übersicht wichtiger Verfahren heraus, in denen es während des laufenden Jahres eine Entscheidung anstrebt: (…)Verfassungsbeschwerde einer Berufssportlerin zu der Frage, ob eine Schadensersatzklage wegen Unterwerfung unter die Schiedsvereinbarung eines Sportverbands als unzulässig abgewiesen werden darf und der Internationale Sportgerichtshof (CAS) in Lausanne ein unabhängiges Schiedsgericht im Sinne der §§ 1034 ff. der Zivilprozessordnung (ZPO) darstellt.

The photo was taken by Bjarte Hetland at the 2008 World Cup in Hamar, Norway.

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