Legal Expertise with Prof. Crespo

Blog > Legal Expertise with Prof. Crespo

Today, we are delighted to introduce Professor Juan de Dios Crespo, a distinguished legal expert and a valued member of our MBA in International Sports Law Program. Professor Crespo teaches the CAS program on “Practicalities in Handling Proceedings from a Party’s Counsel Perspective.” With a rich background in legal practice and a commitment to nurturing the next generation of professionals, Professor Crespo provides invaluable insights and practical knowledge to our students. Join us as we delve into his experiences, teaching philosophy, and the unique contributions he brings to our institution.

Could you share a bit about your background and how you became involved in teaching practical aspects of CAS proceedings?

I have been a sports lawyer since my very young age, but I was working also international commercial issues and, in those ones, arbitration is very much used. So, it was more than clear to me that sports should go for arbitration. CAS was launched in 1983, but not until 2002 was it recognized by the football family. Between those years, I struggle in different courts, until I went to Swiss courts and sued FIFA. I do not know if this made them change their mind but after 6 cases at the Zurich Court, CAS was finally recognized. Meanwhile, I had also basketball cases at the BAT, which is the body covering contractual issues in that sport. Once I was myself an arbitrator (in four different bodies) and used the CAS a lot, I thought that I needed to explain to the future generations how to deal with CAS proceedings. It was a natural thing.

Could you describe your approach to teaching students about the intricacies involved in CAS procedures and strategies for effective representation?

I always try to give the students the view of a practical insider, the lawyer who is embarked in cases in which he would have to use legal skills, but not only those, and to present all the other knowledge that is necessary to grab to prepare a case. It is not as easy as it seems, because you must consider what language is used in the proceeding, if you need to have a hearing or not, and the way to behave at that hearing, in case that it is accepted. And, of course, we should lecture the client on how to answer in a cross examination, which is never easy. Also, the client and the possible witnesses would have to answer questions from the Arbitrators in a quick manner and must be prepared for that too.

Profesor Spotlight

From your experience, what are the most crucial challenges that counsel typically faces when representing clients in CAS arbitrations, and how do you prepare students to navigate these challenges?

The choice of the language, as well as of the arbitrator, and how to manage the experience of a hearing. I give them examples on how to work on those issues.

As for the language, there are three official ones, English, French and Spanish, and sometimes there is an interaction with two or even those three languages and you must prepare not only to choose the official one in which the award will be drafted, but also what use could be made of any of the other(s) at the procedure.

In terms of the choice of an arbitrator, many criteria are to be studied and what seems to be a clear choice for a case won’t be the best of it. So, careful digging into all and every of those criteria, mostly objective but some subjective too, is a must.

Could you share a memorable case or experience from your own practice as counsel in a CAS arbitration, and what lessons can students learn from it?

Difficult to choose, but without naming the case, when you discover something during a hearing that brutally changes your view on the case and that you must change your horse and go another way.

When you receive a documentation the very same day of the hearing and you have to deal with that, or when, at the beginning of one, the arbitrator says that he must suspend it because both my client and I were into a criminal investigation, after a claim brought by the opponent party. This could be the most memorable experience. How to deal with that?

That means that anything can happen and that you must be prepared for the unknown, but you should know it… Difficult task indeed but there is only one way to deal with those issues: have all points and possibilities covered, even the strangest one.

Students SSBM Geneva

From your perspective, what are the most rewarding aspects of teaching about CAS proceedings and working with students who are passionate about sports law?

It is funny but my most rewarding aspect it to have students that could face me in the future at a CAS proceeding and be satisfied with how they deliver their job. I want to have adversaries at the top level, so I need to lecture them to attain that. Of course, students must be passionate about sports law, in order to learn properly and then have a beautiful working journey.

Looking ahead, how do you foresee the role of counsel in CAS proceedings evolving, and what implications might this have for the future of sports arbitration?

We all know that CAS is not always liked and myself, when losing a case that I thought was a winning one, have some doubts to continue that path. But, in the end, we must understand that sports arbitration is necessary, to speed up things, because sports need quickness, and the normal courts won’t be able to deliver that. So, with all its defects, CAS is a needed body. We just must make it understand some of its failures to work together, but I definitively don’t see sports without an arbitration body.

Do you have any advice you would give to individuals looking to apply for our MBA in Sports Law?

They must love sports above all, as it is a mandatory point to live within this market. This is not a boring one, but you need to enjoy it. Your MBA is one of the most prestigious ones in the world and the professionalism of the staff, together with the choice of the professors, makes it unstoppable.

At the Swiss School of Business and Management Geneva, we are proud to have educators like Professor Crespo who enrich our academic environment and inspire our students to excel in their careers. We extend our gratitude to Professor Crespo for sharing his insights and for his ongoing commitment to excellence in teaching.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from our faculty members in our next Professor Spotlight feature.