Evolving Stages of Sports Law In India

This article deals with the evolution of sports law in India, its emergence, its present status, the grey areas, and most importantly the proper legislation and uniform laws that need immediate attention. This will ensure unbiased application of laws for all the sports activities, and a proper framework of sports with the law where the redressal mechanisms would be easy and it would not lead to the unfortunate conclusion of players withdrawing from the respective games. Sports in our country are not given the same respect in comparison to other professions, so the change of our attitude and mindset towards it is also equally pertinent, as it encourages new talent to approach this field without any sort of hesitation.

Background

India is a country that is recognized for its diverse games. Some sports like cricket have been followed like a religion, contemporary occasions have witnessed a progressive shift and various games are being pursued recently like never before. As the excitement has evolved remarkably and India has developed into an overwhelming platform for organizing various national and international episodes rules and regulations were added amidst the process.

Therefore, the need arises for the systematic organization of sports with a reasonable framework of the law.[1] Sports law is a pure form of law not like the theoretical ones, it shows the inter-relationship between the activities of sports and the general law. The UN has officially declared in its resolution 58/5 adopted by  General Assembly that sports are a procedure of advancing health, education, and development, hence a state should have an interest in sport-related matters.[2]

Emergence Of Sports Law In India

The judgment of the Supreme Court in Zee Telefilms is considered as the epitome of Indian Sports Law. The matter in the case was BCCI’s irrational abortion of agreement related to broadcasting rights. Zee Telefilms as an aggrieved party filed a writ petition in the Supreme court under Article 32 of the constitution. But a writ petition can be accepted only against the authorities which come under the ‘meaning of the State’ according to Article 12 of the constitution. The court with the majority in its judgment stated that BCCI did not come under the definition of state conforming to Article 12. Despite his minority views, Justice Sinha referred that BCCI states.

During the stretch of his judgment, he argued about the importance of Sports, especially about cricket. His minority opinion talks about the relevance of sports authorities in the jurisdiction of different countries, and this is by far the only ruling in India that has discussed the sports law in such an elucidating manner. In addition to this, another important judgment which contributed towards the progress of sports law in India was the case of K. Murugan v. Fencing Association of India, Jabalpur[3] also deliberated on the importance of Indian sports law. The subject matter of the aforementioned case was about the election of members to the executive council of the Indian Olympic Association.

Initially, there was no proper enforceable enactment in India related to sports, thereafter the National Sports Development Code, 2011 regulates the functions of the National Sports Federation of India. Although sports form a factor of Entry 33 of the Seventh list, the Seventh Schedule of the constitution of India. The legitimacy of the above-stated code remained an integral part and it was ratified by the Delhi High Court in Indian Olympic Association v. Union of India[4]. Apart from this, two centralized draft bills are there i.e, National Sports Development Bill, 2013, and the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, 2013 which if propagated would give more reliability to the existing Indian sports law.[5]

Need for Sports Law In India

The history of sports law in India dates back to the Vedic era. Some of the games like hockey, polo, wrestling, archery, and polo are believed that its origin took place in India. In India, the relation of sports is related to the fact that it is a way to realize the capability of the body to its fullest. But it is not limited to the realization of one’s body potential, as it is considered a method of better physique and a process of imbibing the art of defence.

Very little importance is given to sports law in India, although various federations look after different sports activities like Board of Cricket Control for India, All India Football Federation, All India Tennis Federation, Indian Basketball Association, the Sports Authority of India, and Indian Olympic Association for the regulation of sports activities. Apart from cricket, our country is falling in all other events. All these federations work for the development and encouragement of sports but there are no consistent laws to address the various issues in the sports.

The major lacunae arise when despite different federations, our country lacks a good sports system. Also, there are no uniform laws to treat the evils like betting, match-fixing, and gambling which results in corruption in the country. There is no appropriate platform for the sportsperson where the redressal mechanism can take place if any dispute arises between the sportsperson and federations it leads to the withdrawal of the majority of players from their respective sports.

Breach of agreements & contracts, inadequate wages to sportspersons, illegal terminations, and not providing them with the records of expenditure are some of the major concerns which need uniform laws for regulation. The harassment of sportspersons is another major issue that needs immediate attention, and provisions for retired players relating to their privileges is also one important issue. India has been witnessing litigation related to arbitrary actions and broadcasting rights. All these problems reflect the idea that sports law must create a regular system of check and destroy the unfair means of practice and impose punishment for the same.[6]

Issues Afflicting The Sports Sphere

The arena of sports law is new in India and there have been many instances where in-depth investigation and research have been carried out. There are various federations, independent bodies, and centres, but there is an immediate need for uniform laws and a good sports system, this being one of the sole reasons for the poor performance of India.

There is no single body or enforceable legislation under which Ministry and different federations can work in a synchronized manner.  In the recent past, grey areas of the sports sector have been witnessed that includes many scandals, maladministration of sports law, such as the IPL betting scandal, Commonwealth scandal, and frequent allegations of sexual assault, etc. are some of the infamous events.

The major loopholes that sports law face are employment issues, drug use, sports injury, broadcasting rights, and corrupt administration which obstructs the talents of youths to progress. The continuous failure of India in different sports events is a demonstration of widespread corruption and deteriorating infrastructure, and therefore there is an urgent need for a proposal of proper legislation and approachable forums to ease all kinds of sports activities.[7]

Challenges In Sports

Various legal issues are frequently witnessed after coming into the profession of sports, and they have to go through lots of challenges and difficulties. Some most observable issues which they face are the following:

Gender Discrimination is one of the most prevalent issues from which everyone is already aware, but no strict regulations are put into place. It varies from giving fewer opportunities to one gender, sexual assault, and less payment to sportswomen. They have been openly shut out from various sports reasons only being the gender. They are considered as the weaker sex, and not perceived capable of playing. Sports psychologists also stated that sportswomen face problems like gender identification, homophobia, and negative media coverage. Pre-existing laws are there but the process is not transparent which needs serious contemplation.

Doping: Doping as a major problem in recent decades developed to a great extent where it was found out that the players use steroids, medicines, and vaccination to improve their performance on the field. Associations were established at national and international platforms to deal with the issue, but they have achieved limited success, and there is a need for stricter reforms to overcome the problem.

Match Fixing and Betting: These two activities have emerged as a social evil in the sports culture. It is corrupting the whole system and is trying to sabotage the very purpose of sport. It gave the players an alternative to earning quick money without much effort and they found themselves in a social trap from where the exit door is very difficult and if any case they are found culprit their whole career gets destroyed. So, to deal with this issue better infrastructure and adequate money must be provided to the sportspersons so that they don’t have to opt for any illegal process.[8]

Conclusion

Sports are now not only considered as a normal process of remaining fit or as a source of entertainment, as now sports are associated with national pride, hence the sportspersons are seen as the representatives of any region, state, and the country at national and international platforms. It automatically becomes the responsibility of the state to provide them with the forums to represent their talents, and thereafter with all the training and pieces of equipment.

It can be easily concluded that the existing model is not competent enough to address the problems, hence the immediate attention must be given for a better and improvised model. And our perspectives towards sports must change as it is one of the hindrances that restricts the sports culture to bloom in the country. Pre-existing laws must be evaluated properly and all the required amendments need to be done for the better future of sports in our country.


[1] Shubham Borkar, Sports Law in India, Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys, (January, 4th,  2019, 12:00 pm), available at  https://www.khuranaandkhurana.com/tag/sports-law-in-india/

[2] Disha Pareek, Sports law in general, i- pleaders, (July, 29th, 2016), available at https://blog.i-pleaders.in/sports-law-india/.

[3] K.Murugan v. Fencing Association of India, Jabalpur, AIR 1991 SCR (1), SCC (2) 412.

[4] Indian Olympic Association v. Union of India, AIR 2012, W.P. (C) 2310/2012.

[5] Supra note, 1.

[6] Abinaya Saikumar, The Need of Comprehensive Legislation for Regulation of Sports Law in India, Racolb Legal, (July, 20th, 2019), available at https://racolblegal.com/the/need-of-comprehensive-legislation-for-regulation-of-sports-law-in-india/

[7] Supra note, 2.

[8] Urvashi Agarwal, Gauri A. Sharan, Issues Plaguing the Sports Arena, Volume 3, JAMIA LAW JOURNAL, 143, 149-160, (2018).

Anjali Kumari from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab


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