Are we right to use the term ‘sports law’? What does it mean and why should we consider it to be important.
The existence of the subject ‘Sports Law’ has been debated for a number of years now and there are two different schools of thought with regards to the term ‘Sports Law’. Some commentators refer to ‘Sport and the Law’ arguing that there is currently no topic than can be referred to as ‘Sports Law’. Grayson, who many consider the father of ‘sport and the law’ states that ‘No subject exists which jurisprudentially can be called sports law. As a soundbite headline, shorthand description, it has no juridical foundation; for common law and equity creates no concept of law exclusively relating to sport’ . His view is that there is no separate legal discipline with regards to sport and sporting activity, and that it is only a subject area where normal legal principles are to be applied. However, there are others, mostly academics, who see Sports Law as having developed into a new legal area in its own right; ‘the answer to the argument that sports law is merely law in which the parties happen to be involved in sport, is that the law is now beginning to treat sporting activity, sporting bodies and the resolution of disputes in sport, differently from other activities or bodies. Discrete doctrines are gradually taking shape in the sporting field ... there are now clear signs that the English courts are beginning to treat decisions of sporting bodies as subject to particular principles.’ This quote from Beloff sums up the attitude of courts towards sport and is an indication of the origins of Sports law as its own discipline. Law is applied in many aspects of public and private life, but not every aspect of life has a set of legal rules. However, this development is not unique to sport, and is a process that has happened to many legal areas. Labour or employment law is a subject area that has only achieved relatively recent recognition. It has its origins in contract law in the employment context, but no one would doubt that is has become a subject area in its own right. Some authors, most notably Beloff, Kerr and Demetriou, believe that the subject of sports law is now sufficiently developed to merit recognition as a discrete field of law, and as a consequence it is legitimate to use the term ‘sports law’; Sports law has certainly adopted the clothing of a recognised discipline. There are many books on sports law. Their titles prove conclusively there are many ways to skin a cat--Sports Law, The Law of Sport, Sport and the Law --and jeux being notoriously sans frontières --European Sports Law and even International Sports Law .
As discussed earlier, the law intrudes in many aspect of life, but not all of them end up having their own set of legal rules and doctrines. We must now look at the reasons why law has taken such an important role in sports which has led to the field expanding and becoming a discipline itself. Previously in English Law, sport was considered to be a contractual matter subject to private law principles. However, the development of sport meant that there was occasional need for some form of intervention at the level of government to guarantee the health of society. The underlying point however, is that intervention should be limited to only such extent as is required to preserve the sporting nature and value. It was held in Meca-Medina and Majcen v Commission of the European Communities that sport is subject to European Community law only to the extent that it constitutes an economic activity. There has indeed been some level of intervention under English law, but it has been no more than supervisory with the aim of protecting the public interest (including fans and spectators) as well as the legally guaranteed rights of sportspersons. The intrusion into the sphere of sports governing bodies has seen the legislature in England enact laws governing sport. This basically has been to regulate...
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