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Lex sportiva conference (Sport Law vs. State Law) | ACCOLDI

Lex sportiva conference (Sport Law vs. State Law)

junio 19, 2014


Rafael A. Prieto Sanjuán

First and foremost I’d like to thank Professor Prieto for giving me the opportunity of briefly summarising the events that occurred at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota on the 3rd of July 2014. Hopefully this post will bring back fond memories for those involved and give a better understanding of the conference to those who weren’t able to attend.

It is fair to say that an uninformed onlooker might wonder how it came about that seven students from the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense gave a conference on the transnational law of sports in a Colombian university. Well, the starting point is the Collège International de Droit: an English-speaking diploma created by Professor Jean-Marc Thouvenin in 2011 that aims to give 5th year students at Nanterre University a practical experience in public international law. In addition to the different conferences that participants to this diploma attend, there are two major events that make this program stand out: the Day of Crisis and the organisation of a conference on a theme linked to international law, in a foreign university.

The third edition of the Day of Crisis was a success with the participation of universities from all over the world such as King’s University in London, Belo Horizontein Brazil and Universidad de Malaga from Spain. From the 2nd to the 3rd of May 2014, students were asked to spend 24 hours examining the legal stakes of constantly evolving international events as well as leading negotiations between States and organisations. After this challenging and stimulating event, we were free to give our conference a finishing touch.

The subject of this conference was chosen amongst of list of very different themes but, with an event such as the FIFA World Cup approaching and knowing Colombia and France’s shared interest in sports, the choice was an easy one. Less easy was the initial familiarisation with the subject. In this venture, Frank Latty, a former student of Nanterre University, and his thesis “Lex sportiva: research on transnational law”, were instrumental in giving us a first understanding of the subject we were aiming to become experts in.

Once we’d acquired a general perspective on the translational law of sports, rather than trying to be all-inclusive,we decided to approach the subject through six different themes. This would also enable us to conclude the presentation of each theme by determining whether it is sports law or State law that “wins” in that particular area.

The eleven hour flight between Paris and Bogota allowed us to incorporate each of our PowerPoint presentations, this would become an integral part of our conference as it enabled us to illustrate the points we were making. At El Dorado Airport, we were greeted by Professor Prieto and Professor Ricardo Abello. Seeing familiar faces as soon as we’d landed made us feel at home despite the seven hour time difference.

After checking in at the Hotel Augusta, both groups went for a late nightfirst taste of Colombian cuisine. Most of us would have deepened our acquaintance with the local beers and cocktails were it not for the two rehearsals we had planned for the next day. Under the benevolent scrutiny of Marianne Lamour, Victor Grandaubert and Professor Thouvenin, we made the necessary last changes to our oral presentations and determined the order in which we should intervene. Confident that the hardest part was behind us and that the only thing left was to enjoy the fruit of our hard work, we indulged into some well-earned rest.

Before arriving at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, we assumed we would be the most stressedstudents on campus but we were soon reminded by the anxious looks on our Colombian counterpart’s faces that our conference coincided with the end of term exams. We were welcomed in a comfortable room in the Faculty of Legal Sciences department where Simon Bolivar’s intense gaze strengthened our determination.


Before getting to the heart of the matter,the conference started with a brief introduction that defined and contextualised the law of sports as well as assessing why it is a transnational legal order and an autonomous body of law.

Clementine Faget followed by examining the political implications of lex sportiva, particularly the way the transnational law on sports can act as a pacifier of relations or, in some cases, as a fuel for pre-existing tensions. Jean-Rémi De Maistre and Ithen showed how the enormous financial power of the federations enables them to be more independent, notably in areas such asthe building of infrastructures to host sporting events, intellectual property rights, broadcasting rights and financial fair-play. Subsequently, Jeremy Battino came to the conclusion that sports law is better equipped than State law in the fight against corruption, particularly match fixing. This, he argued, is one of the elements that give this legal order its cohesive pattern.

After a short break, Tiphaine Lescaudron elaborated on the anti-doping movement, particularly the bodies in charge of the movement and the interactions between international regulations and State laws. Fanny Roussey then explained how the autonomy and the specificity of lex sportiva are substantially questioned by European law, in particular by the principle of free movement on which the European Union is built. Finally, Camille Fonda developed on how lex sportiva strengthens the compliance with human rights in fields such as the fight against discrimination but how it can also violate certain human rights in proceedings in front of arbitration courts and in the fight against doping.

We concluded that in fields such as human rights and the fight against corruption, it is possible to consider that lex sportiva is the winner but that, as far as the European Union is concerned, State law prevails. The main lesson of this conference is that in most cases – i.e. sport and business, sport and politics and the fight against doping – both legal orders interact to create a complex body of law whose outline still remains to be defined. Most important of all, we managed to avoid the very sensitive subject of Radamel Falcao’s injury while playing in France.


Each presentation was concluded by questions from the floor, notably by Alvaro Amaya and Professor Cardenas. Often challenging, their interrogations forced us to go even further in our reflection on the conference’s theme, particularly the interaction between lex sportiva and public international law.

We also had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with the Dean of the Faculty of Legal Sciences, Mr. Sampedro Arrubla. His warm welcome and kind words reminded us of the value of partnerships such as the one between Nanterre and Javeriana.

On behalf of all students involved, we would like to thank those, on both continents, who gave us the amazing opportunity to embark on such an adventure. The following days in Bogota and Cartagena left us with an unquenchable thirst to discover more of Colombia and provided us with memories that we will cherish, not only through out our careers, but for our entire lives.

Thomas Zaratiegui   

An interesting note of Mr. Zaratiegui in which he

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