Sports Law: A Crying Need

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Aniket Pandey

May 20th, 20116:41 pm

“Sports in India are an extremely vast area and entail lots of legal issues, yet our laws related to sports are still not clear and transparent. For instance, India is hosting Commonwealth Games for the first time and legal issues related to infrastructure, sponsorship, licensing, doping, etc, are likely to confront us. The need of the hour is to set strong and lucid policies to combat all legal issues related to sports.” [1]

-Lalit Bhasin


Sports have grown into a highly competitive industry with global pervasiveness. It is one of the largest revenue generating industries in the world comprising 3% of the world trade. India has hosted the Commonwealth Games, a sporting fiesta with 5000 competitors from 85 countries, more than 1.2 million spectators and an estimated 26000 crore rupees invested to make Delhi the cynosure of the sporting world. Such an event of mind boggling proportions entails problems unique and complex related to infrastructure, licensing, sponsorship, media rights and ethical sporting practices. It is an appropriate moment to analyze the need for lucid legal provisions pertaining to sports in India. [2]

Need of the hour

The World of sports has been continuously struck by scandals and controversies in the past few years. The Olympic Games Bidding Scandal, the recent IPL scam and allegations of sexual harassment by the Indian Women’s Hockey Team have shaken the nation. From six gold medals in a row from 1928 to 1956, the Indian Hockey team hit an all time low failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. [3] This incident exposed the maladministration and insularity of a defective system that debilitated our resources. Even the Gentleman’s Game Cricket has been blemished by match fixing and payment from bookies. All these incidents expose the dark side of a highly competitive world. [4]

The major problems involved in sports are as follows:

  1. Labour Issues: The major problem is regarding mandatory negotiation issues between players and owners relating to hours, wages and working conditions. The agents confided to conduct business on player’s behalf have to be loyal and ethical serving the best interests of the game. The problem of performance enhancing drugs is an integral aspect of drug policies. Drug testing, list of banned drugs, penalties, privacy issues and right to appeal must be clearly stated by the nodal agency concerned.[5]
  2. Laws for accountability: There is a requirement to check corruption and verify accountability in conduct and monetary transactions of the government bodies and other agencies entitled to supervise the portfolio. Incumbency caps of office bearers of federations and age restrictions of the office bearers are long overdue. Agreements that are exception and contrary to the Trade Practices Act should not be promoted. Denial of essential facilities significant for the rivals to compete in an event must be severely dealt with. This is especially applicable to our country where the organization of administration is pyramidal with a dominating agency at the helm of affairs.[6]
  3. Broadcasting Rights: India’s Competition Act 2002, applies void any agreement that is likely to cause considerable inauspicious impact on competitiveness. Nevertheless BCCI has been selling broadcasting rights to exclusive partners for a long time. The principle corroborating the interest of the general public to watch sports has been the fact that sports is temporary product. The element of unpredictability of consequence and that a live event cannot be substituted. Concentration of rights in a few agents will seriously hamper the prospects of fair play in media rights.[7]

Call for a Comprehensive Sports Law in India [8]

  1. The Law should propose and promote rules of ethics and spirit of sportsmanship among competitors and the bodies involved in decision making. Ethical solution to legal issues in sports is the core idea behind the vision. This will enhance the morale of the players by improving contractual dynamics among them and the administrative bodies. Contracts must clarify expectations and commitment from the players and agents.
  2. It is required that consultancy services must be provided to the sports bodies and players. Coordination between the legal fraternity and the sporting community is essentiality for such a salubrious interaction.
  3. National identity and the spirit of symbolizing India must supervene upon political decisions. It would be highly advisable to include a former player of a game at the helm of affairs rather than a mere administrator or politician with vested interests.
  4. To combat corruption, incumbency caps and age restriction on office bearers of federation must be introduced. Denial of essential facilities and exclusionary policies that are intentional at a player or a rival organization should result in the termination of the services of the administrator concerned. Misuse of authority must be severely dealt with.
  5. Salary caps on players and teams should be introduced. Practices that create a roadblock for new entrants and disengage the existing players and consequently lead to foreclosure of a competition must not be endured.
  6. A greater predisposition and legal assistance must be furnished to women players. And Culprits of harassment and discrimination should be severely punished.
  7. A Research of excellent quality should be encouraged in the arena of sports through continuing education.

The intensity of the problem and its subtleties approve that the sports law will no longer be an applied law or mergers of laws under some jurisdiction, but a law in its own right. The seventh schedule, entry 33 of our Constitution has provided a provision for the State as well as the centre to make and enact laws on regulation, registration and recognition of associations involved in sports. Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are the only three states where there is a functional sports law at present. In India, the provincial sports bodies work under nonprofit making organizations under the Company Law Jurisdiction. Rules and regulations like statutory orders act only as secondary legislations supplementing laws. The Competition act (2002) regulates and promotes Competition advocacy, prohibits abuse of authority and anti-competitive agreements. Although a comprehensive law on Sports must aim at a broader ideal and vision. The law makers should provide and disseminate the idea and information on various issues related to sports and encourages the exchange of a variety of perspectives through conferences before embarking on the mission.[9][10]


The emergent interaction between sports and law has shaped a new need for a greater understanding of how the law relates to the sporting world. India needs expert sports law consultants and sports law to meet an amalgam of diverse legal disciplines such as sports law and policy, contract, tort, taxation, labor, competition, TV rights, match fixing and related criminal laws. [11] At last the need for hour is that the legal practitioners and sports persons must come together to understand, advance, promote and ethically practice sports law in India.


  3. Ibid
  5. Supra; footnote 2
  7. Supra footnote 2
  8. Ibid
  9. ›
  10. Supra; footnote 2


Article by-

Aniket Pandey

Student, BBA(LLB) Corporate laws

University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun

[Submitted as an entry for the Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]


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