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Exploring the Realm of Sports Law

  • 11 Pages
  • Published On: 30-11-2023
Introduction

Sports law is one of the fields of law that has an unconditional protection from the legal proceedings which are mostly attributed to the concept of international NGOs. The international sports organization works in a complete isolated way which does not fall under the adjudication of any kinds of international law yet these international sports organization hold the greater authority in deciding the futures of the players herein across the world. Every one of the international sports organizations are content of their own law, codes and regulations which they consider to be supreme and none of these organizations can be held liable by any outer international law of whatsoever form. In the case of Butch Reynolds, the governing sports body herein rejected the player’s plea in the court and put forward with the statement that the anti doping law held by the governing sports organization is ultimate and that in the matter of banning a player, the courts of the country shall not interfere herein.

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Thus, in this article herein, we shall discuss the nature of sports law across the world and whether a global sports law can be established. We shall discuss the concept of international sports law with a defining distinction between the concept of global sports law and international sports law and conclude the discussion with critical evaluation of the whether the sports should be a subject of the international law or not.

The concept of International Sports Law

The concept of international sports law is something that is still under process. Unlike other subject matters, sport does not come under the purview of the subject matter of international law herein. In different countries and different regions, the concept of sports is adjudicated differently and whether each aspect of a sport shall be adjudicated in the same way demands a blurry line herein.

Thus, to evaluate whether there exist any definable concept of international sports law, different aspect of different regions and countries are needed to be discussed herein. If we take the example of the European Union, the sports of each nations were subjected to their own law and federations until the case of ASBL v. Bosman , when in the year of 1995 the decision was explored and challenged by the ECJ as to whether sports as subject matter influence the economy of the country enough to be considered under the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union herein. It can be said that in relation to the concept of international law, the EU countries adheres to the concept of International Sports Law by a slim margin.

  1. Reynolds v. Int'l Amateur Athletic Federation, 505 U.S. 1301 (1992)
  2. Case C-415/93 Bosman [1995] ECR I-4292

Again, the same concept does not apply to the games of the USA. The governments of the States do not interfere in the matter of sports and NCAA operates in the cases of sports with the help of several by laws. In India, the sports organisations are effectively self governed and they do not come under the purview of “State” as mentioned under article 12 of the Constitution of India. But in the case of China, the government take an active part in governing the Chinese Sports herein and the Chinese Sports organisations are not self governed and the sports policy of the state are inherently regulated by the Chinese Government herein.

Thus, to conceptualize to abovementioned examples of sports regulations adapted by several countries, it can be said that none of the countries follow a particular way of governing of sports and all of them adhere to their own agenda and policies whichever prove to be suitable for their sports. The interference of government is also dictated by the contribution of sports in their economy herein. However, all of these countries, despite them having separate sports governance inside the States, are subjected to the international sporting federations herein.

Is there a definable concept called the International Sports Law?

The international sports federations such as FIFA or IOC operate on their own i.e. they are not accountable to any legal proceeding or they cannot be sued before any national courts for their decisions herein. They are self governed and they work on the concept of global sports law herein. While the concepts of international sports law inherently need to be subjected to the general principles of the international law, the current international sports federations do not. They have their own regime and their supremacy in holding any decision regarding any player of any country cannot be challenged in whatsoever form. Thus, from this active point of view, it can be said that there exist no definable concept of international sports law. The concept of international sports law is theoretical only.

  1. Parrish, Richard (2003). Sports Law and Policy in the European Union. Manchester University Press, p.30-35
  2. Baxter, Vern, and Charles Lambert. “The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Governance of Higher Education.” (1990); The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 403–421
  3. Ayush Verma; “Everything you need to know about sports law in India” (2021) < https://blog.ipleaders.in/everything-need-know-sports-law-india/> accessed on 13th June, 2021
  4. James A. R. Nafziger, and Li Wei. “China's Sports Law.” (1998); The American Journal of Comparative Law, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 453–483

However, it can be said that there exist a subtle concept of international sports law in the sphere of global sports law as all the international sports federations, being self governed, cannot reject the natural law or the rule of law as commonly understood by the public at large. Even if they govern their own subjects, the subtle hint of international law is invested within as it was upheld in the recent case of AEK Athens & Slavia Prague v. UEFA, as much as the international sporting institution does not abide to any jus commune, but they need to abide to a general principle of law, as has been provided by several legal principles of the international law herein and principles of pact sunt servanda, doctrine of equity, personal liability etc. shall govern the international sports federations while adjudicating any arbitration matter herein. Thus, these adherence to a universal character defines the international sports as a not an alien subject matter which cannot be subjected to the jus commune herein. Even if all the international sporting federations are self governed and autonomous in character, their powers are again limited in respect to the general principle of law, natural principles and rule of law as have been accepted by the international law or the law of the land of different countries herein.

Hence, if we critically evaluate the abovementioned concept, it can be said that even if a clear concept on international sports law is unavailable, the presence of a jus commune can be traced in the governance of the autonomous international sports federations as well. Thus, there exists a subtle definable concept of international sports law.

Distinction between ‘International Sports Law’ and ‘Global Sports Law’

Although the both of these terms might confer to be of the same origin, international sports law and global sports law are two complete different concepts that shall change the outline of the sports governance herein. The default concept of international law governs the subject matters that define the relation between two nations herein. Thus, international sports law can be defined as the body of law which shall govern and adjudicate the international sporting federations of different nations, their relation and any conflict of whatsoever form. International sports law shall be governed by the principles of international law herein. However, according to Nafzinger, as international sports law come under the purview of an authoritative decision making body, the general principle of the international law shall be applicable in the matter of sports as well.

  1. James A. R. Nafziger. “International Sports Law: A Replay of Characteristics and Trends.” (1992); The American Journal of International Law, vol. 86, no. 3, pp. 489–518
  2. AEK Athens & Slavia Prague v. UEFA (Court of Arbitration for Sport 98/200; award 20/08/99) para.188
  3. Agreements are binding.

Global sports law can be defined as the governance of the subject of sports across different countries under a private federation of global or international in nature. Thus, global sports law inherently establishes itself from the rest of the legal body in working across the world and it is an autonomous legal order created by the international sports federations herein such as FIFA or International Olympic Committee. Thus, global sports law is one separate sphere of legal body which shall not be touched or governed by the public international law or in simple words it cannot be subjected to jus commune. All the sports matter shall have the supreme authority of the international sports federations and their decisions cannot be challenged before any courts of the world. They shall make their own rules. The global sports law can be defined in the words of Teubner, “a global law without a state”. Global sports law considers each sporting organizational body of different countries to be an autonomous subject and each of these organizations are subjected to the rules and conditions of the international sporting federations and no one else. They enjoy a “diplomatic immunity from the legal regulations” herein.

Thus, international sports law is a much wider set of principles which is not only subjected to the general principles of the international law but also needs its own ‘rule of law’ which shall safeguard several aspects of sports globally. Global sports law on the other hand is confined aspect of the sports which completely disassociates itself from the norms of the lands and often does not depend on the state funding. For example, corporate sponsors fund the Formula One race and thus, each of the team carries their respective corporate team’s name. In the words of Houlihan, “internationalized sports have their roots into the nation states and often funded by the individual state governments while globalised sports are rootless and mostly depend on the funding of the corporate sectors or private franchise.

  1. James A. R. Nafziger. “International Sports Law: A Replay of Characteristics and Trends.” (1992); The American Journal of International Law, vol. 86, no. 3, pp. 489–518
  2. G. Teubner (ed.), Global Law Without a State (Andover: Dartmouth, 1997)
  3. Foster, Ken. (2012). Is There a Global Sports Law?; Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, p. 11
  4. Ibid, p.15
  5. B. Houilhan (1991); ‘Governance, Globalisation and Sport’, paper presented at Anglia Polytechnic University LLM Sports Law Seminar

Hirst and Thompson focuses more on the concept of economy while defining and distinguishing between international sports law and global sports law. According to them, there are two types of economy systems that exist in the world – internationalized economy and globalised economy. While internationalized economy depends on the functioning of the other nation states, globalised economy solely based on their own decisions and framework and depends very less on the functioning of the other party herein. The latter part of the concept herein are followed by the current several international sports federations who refused to be held liable before any national courts of whatsoever nature and govern the subject matter of sports according to their own set of principles, codes and regulations that they deem fit. For example, IOC or FIFA, two most recognized and famous international sporting organization are legally exempted to be held accountable before any national courts herein and they shall not abide by any decisions given by the national courts. These organizations are only abided by a particular system of arbitration which again also regulated and established by these sports organizations herein.

Thus, if we critically evaluate these two concepts and the differences between these two concepts, we can conclude that the concept of global sports law is arbitrary and provides a concept of totalitarian into the sports world. Each of the international sporting federation considers themselves to be of supreme and creates a totalitarian concept by not abiding to any directions provided by any national courts herein. In the case of global sports law, there is no neutral body who shall meditate if a player does not agree with the decisions of one International Sports federations. There is no neutral body to reflect upon the decisions held by an international sporting federation and makes the whole concept fundamentally problematic. While international sports law shall be governed by the general principles of international law and shall abide by the decisions held by the international courts of justice, there is no such concept of adjudication attached to global sports law herein. Thus, FIFA or IOC shall only abide by their own set of rules and regulations and for their decisions, they shall not be legally accountable before any national courts herein and their decisions shall always be considered to be of supreme nature as well.

  1. P. Hirst and G. Thompson (1999); “Globalisation in Question”; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
International Sports Federations – a debate between Self-regulated sports law and International Sports Law

Whether sports should be regulated by self governed international sports federations or sports should be a subject matter of the Public International Law or jus commune – the debate between these two concepts have been in existence for a long time. The concept of global sports law and international sports law have contravened each other and even after several postulates have been put forward in favour of the international sports law, most of the international sports federations are self governed and there exist no firm law on governing these sports federations herein. Thus, herein we shall assess the effectiveness of self regulation and international sports law regulating the bodies of sports federations and conclude with a critical evaluation as to which of these two concepts have the most effectiveness in relation the current scenario.

Arguments in favour of the Self Regulated Sports Federation

While it has been already established that no international sports federations can be self regulated as the term demands and every international sports federations are needed to be adhered by some of the basic legal principles herein, it cannot be denied that the concept of global sports law govern the subject matter of sports and alienate the subject of sports from the other subjects matters of a nation.

a) Better Governance

It is undoubtedly one of the advantages of self regulated sports federations. Self regulated international sports federations build up a better system of governance and they are abide by their own sets of rules and term, thus each of the sports have their each set of rules which are best of them herein. Unlike other subject matters of the international law, sports need different legal treatment and different legal principles and levels of standards need to be set for sports which makes self regulated sports federations look better at governance. As these sports federations only deal with the subject matter of sports and it is not confused with other general subject matter of the state, self regulation always gives an advantage herein. The unique rules are only possible if self governed international sports federation prepares them.

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  1. Foster, Ken; Global Sports Law Revisited (2019); The Entertainment and Sports Law Journal. V.17

b) Fast Decision

Another positive argument in favour of self regulation is that fast decisions can be achieved in case of any conflicts or disputes. If the international sports federations stick to their own rules and regulations, they do not need to go through the complex nature of judicial system and thus, fast decisions can be taken by self regulated sport bodies herein.

Arguments in favour of International Sports Law

While it is of no doubt that self regulated international sports bodies have better inner governance of their sports matter which needs special rules and regulations and cannot be confused with the general set of principles of public international law herein, there exist some aspects which provides the concept of International Sports Law with some advantages.

a) Better accountability

The accountability of different sports federations in case of self regulation stand at zero. Apart from having an arbitration procedure, the self regulated international sports authority cannot be challenged before any national courts and such immunity from legal proceedings make these sports federation without any accountability in case of any prejudiced decision or corruption herein.

b) Better economical control

As it has been seen from the treatment of the TFEU in regulating the sports policy of the EU countries in order to establish a better sport system between the countries, international sports law provide the countries and the government with better control over their sports and such policy can be made in accordance to the economical benefits herein.

Critical Evaluation of the arguments in favour and against of self regulation

In respect to the current scenarios where FIFA has been in the midst of several corruption scandal for a long time and the anti-doping governance namely WADA, having their anti-doping law compromised severely, the effectiveness of self regulation of the international sports federation definitely raises eyebrows. While a self regulated sports body work better with respect to efficiency and have better control over from being tangled in several litigation process, the totalitarian character of self regulated sports federations cannot be ignored. If we critically evaluate the above-mentioned arguments herein, it can be seen that in order to provide the international sports federations with the liberty to having their own subjected controlled under their regime and establish an efficient arbitration procedure, such self regulation also leads to corruption of such federations as well. As the self regulated sports bodies do not have any independent review committee to look over their decision in respect to any player herein, these bodies tend to work to their own goals and their supremacy can be injurious to individual players. Players can be subjected to corruption or prejudice and the legal immunity of these federations will not let any national court intervene in whatsoever manner. Thus, even if there exist several advantages to the concept of self regulated international sports federations, the possibility of getting such huge powers corrupted can be terrifying for any person pursuing any sports. Several talents can be destroyed and the futures of the players are solely in the hands of the federations where their decisions cannot be challenged.

Hereby, comparing the arguments as have been postulated earlier, it can be said that it is of utmost importance for governments of the different countries to interfere in their sports matter and include the international sports federations under the ambit of the jus commune or international sports law herein.

Conclusion

As it has been discussed in details above, in light of the recent incidents in the sports world, it is of utmost importance to change the status of the international sports federation from autonomous to semi-autonomous and establish an ad-hoc body to review their decisions and internal rule making process. Also, there should be an independent review committee attached to each of the international sports federation and they shall have the power of adjudicating any conflicts prevailing between the federations and players herein. As it has been said earlier that the subject matter of sports need to be adjudicated differently under different rules and regulations, it shall not of wise choice to life the status of self regulation as of now because that might create a chaos in the world of sports and how each nation governs their sports body herein. However, in cases of crimes involved in cases of sports, special attentions should be catered towards them.

  1. BBC News; “Fifa corruption crisis” (2015) < https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32897066> accessed on 13th June, 2021
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Articles

  • Ayush Verma; “Everything you need to know about sports law in India” (2021) < https://blog.ipleaders.in/everything-need-know-sports-law-india/> accessed on 13th June, 2021
  • BBC News; “Fifa corruption crisis” (2015) < https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32897066> accessed on 13th June, 2021

Journals

  • Parrish, Richard (2003). Sports Law and Policy in the European Union. Manchester University Press, p.30-35
  • Baxter, Vern, and Charles Lambert. “The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Governance of Higher Education.” (1990); The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 403–421
  • James A. R. Nafziger, and Li Wei. “China's Sports Law.” (1998); The American Journal of Comparative Law, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 453–483
  • G. Teubner (ed.) (1997), “Global Law Without a State”; Andover: Dartmouth, 2nd ed
  • Foster, Ken. (2012). “Is There a Global Sports Law?; Entertainment and Sports Law” Journal, p. 11
  • B. Houilhan (1991); ‘Governance, Globalisation and Sport’, paper presented at Anglia Polytechnic University LLM Sports Law Seminar
  • P. Hirst and G. Thompson (1999); “Globalisation in Question”; Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress
  • Foster, Ken; “Global Sports Law Revisited” (2019); The Entertainment and Sports Law Journal. V.17

Case Laws

  • Reynolds v. Int'l Amateur Athletic Federation, 505 U.S. 1301 (1992)
  • Case C-415/93 Bosman [1995] ECR I-4292
  • AEK Athens & Slavia Prague v. UEFA, (Court of Arbitration for Sport 98/200; award 20/08/99) para.188

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