Sports law is a wide concept in terms of describing legal issues related to various sports in both amateur and professional sports, national as well as international level. The realm of sports law is relatively new to our country. Nevertheless, it is an area of study that is worthy of definition and in-depth academic inquiry and practice. Different from theoretical laws, it is a pure law. Sports law is not only applied to the field of sports, but also physical education and other relevant fields. Sports law has a well-developed pattern of globalized regulations and overlaps with all major substantive laws. These laws have been applied to sporting context involving public order, drugs, safety, disciplinary measures, conduct and wider issues relating to restraint of trade, anti-competitive behaviour, match fixing and the commercial exploitation of sports. In India, ‘sports’ is in the State list of the Seventh Schedule (entry 33) of the Constitution.
Despite various federations in India that provide sports facilities but apart from cricket, India is largely failing in every major event of sports such as Olympics, etc. One of the main reasons for it is the lack of uniform regulation for sports in India. There is a need for a legislation that governs sports and brings the various authorities under one roof. The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports was set up by the Govt. of India to create the infrastructure and promote capacity building for broad-basing sports as well as for achieving excellence in various competitive events at the national and international levels. Sports promotion is primarily the responsibility of the various National Sports Federations (NSFs) which are autonomous in nature. The Sports Law in India is governed and regulated by various existing laws, Policies and Authorities. But there is no single legislation which brings these bodies under a single umbrella.
The sporting world has been plagued by scandals and controversies in the past few decades. The Olympic Games Bidding Scandal, the recent IPL scam, FIFA scandal and allegations of sexual harassment, etc. are few of those scandals. These incidents have exposed the maladministration and a defective system of sports. It has also lead to the exposure of the dark side of a highly competitive world.
Some of the major problems that sports in India faces, can be broadly categorized as follows:
Labour & Employment Issues: Players and owners have to negotiate mandatory issues relating to hours, wages and working conditions. The agents entrusted to conduct business on player’s behalf need to work as per well-defined norms and procedure that serve the best interests of the game.
Drug Use: The problem of performance enhancing drugs is a major problem that needs to be addressed. Drug testing, list of banned drugs, penalties, privacy issues and right to appeal must be clearly stated by the nodal agency concerned.
Tort Laws: Right to publicity has to be dealt with the defamation of a person’s character and reputation.
Laws on Accountability: There is a need to check corruption and ensure accountability and transparency in conduct and monetary deals of the government bodies and other agencies involved in managing sports. Tenure caps and age restrictions of office bearers of federations are long overdue.
Broadcasting Rights: India’s Competition Act 2002, holds void any agreement that is likely to cause an appreciable adverse impact on competitiveness. Yet the issue of grant of broadcast rights of sporting events has repeatedly been raising controversy.
Competition Law: Sports governing bodies such as BCCI, often attempt to preserve for themselves the sole power to regulate the sport and to organize events. In order to prevent the development of rival organizations, they have sought to tie players in by prohibiting them from competing in other events and such rules have been the subject of challenge under competition law.
Sports Law and Arbitration: At a time when sports are becoming more professional and the stakes are becoming higher than ever, dispute resolution takes on an increasingly important role. With regular increase in the number of sports-related disputes in the country, India requires an independent authority that specializes in sports-related problems and that is authorised to pronounce binding decisions.
Sports Injuries with regard to the Issues of Liability: This comprises potential liabilities; claim and compensation; and risk assessment insurance provisions.
Harassment in Sports: The review of the laws and policies for the harassment of fair sex in sports. Law for prevention of racial and gender harassment in sports is also required.
Research: Research must be undertaken to promote, encourage and support the law fraternity. It may include: drafting Sports Act of India; Indian legislative body for support of Indian sports; standing of the sports administrator in India; regulation of violence between players in contact sports; risk management programmes for safety in sports; concerns of racial discrimination and national identity in sport; changes in contractual dynamics in professional football; judicial pronouncement of Indian in addition to International Courts.
Gambling: At present, most of the gambling in India is illegal. Legalizing betting though sounds a drastic suggestion, but which the Justice Lodha panel was of the opinion that would help curb corruption in the game and provided that players and officials not to take part in gambling, and other people should be allowed to place bets on registered websites.
India’s failure in all the international sports events is an indication of poor infrastructure and corruption which exists within the federations. In order to meet the increasing demands of the changing scenario, at national as well as international level, it is important to bring in a national legislation for promotion, development and uniform regulation for sports in India. The aim of Sports Law should be – to provide educational opportunities and disseminate data and information regarding specific areas of sports law; and to create a forum for lawyers representing athletes, teams, leagues and other organizations involved in professional, collegiate, Olympic, physical education and amateur sports. Establishing rules of ethics for sports persons and practicing professional of law involved in sports law will support the sports industry as well. National Sports Development Bill, 2013, drafted by the Mudgal Committee, was a ‘landmark initiative’ that aimed at ‘stemming the rot’ in Indian sports. However, the Bill has been abandoned by the NDA government that ought to have been presented in Parliament in the Winter Session last year. As a sports enthusiast, I am hopeful that a unified sports law will be a reality soon and India reaches pinnacle of success in the field of sports.