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AUTHOR: Shefali Chitkara,

Vivekananda Institute Of Professional Studies

“The law has its epochs of ebb and flow; the flood tides are on us. The old order may change yielding place to new; but the transition is never an easy process.”

- Justice Cardoze

- Justice Cardoze


Sports law is in its development stage and has a long way to go in the developing nations. The history of sports can be traced back to Mahabharata which shows an incidence where a game called Chaturang was played between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Sport is considered to be an important aspect of human development [1]. Traditionally, sports have been seen as a private social activity far from the reach of legal frameworks. It has not only remained an activity of physical development or entertainment but has now acquired a professional approach. With the changing dimensions like high salaries, ticket prices and profits involved, sports are not just games but great business opportunities. The continuous involvement of various aspects like competition, contract and other rules have demanded for new provisions in this area. Though, legislators in other nations have made significant endeavours in the development of legal frameworks relating to sports but there has been no such attempt in contributing to sports jurisprudence in India.The article focuses on the issues that demand for the changes in sports laws and the need for such changes.


There are many unethical practices involved in sports like doping- testing and procedure, competition qualification, hiring and firing of players and coaches, team selection, issues relating to labor, use of drugs, betting and match fixing. With the changing times, there is a need for comprehensive legislation for regulating activities in sports so as to maintain that professional spirit. Some issues that are involved have been mentioned below:


Contracts are involved not only in business affairs but also in employment and programming. Athletes sign participation contracts with sports associations. Suppliers, organisations sign sponsorship agreements, coaches also sign employment contracts. Such contracts are governed by the general principles of contract.

Contractual issues may include endorsement rights and contractual liabilities; branding and image rights of sportsperson; minors in sports contracts; media rights, licensing and dealing with privacy; creating and managing data and sports marketing agreements [2].


This may include match fixing, gambling, betting; spot-fixing; violence in sports; corruption in selection, providing media rights, finalizing commentators and the like issues. There is also an International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Code that aims at preventing corruption in the area of sports. It majorly focuses on the protection of players, child players under upholding Criminal Law in India [3].This law is an essential requirement in the field of sports. It should be included in this area because various federal and state laws in many nations are made to ban the use of various drugs that are used to enhance the performance, scalping of tickets, etc.


Some of the integral corrupting ingredients in sports are betting, gambling and match-fixing. These are the major common problems now-a-days. Though betting is acceptable to a certain extent but the problem is that it ultimately gives way to match-fixing which results in the creation of indirect profit-oriented bodies. Then, these bodies exercise indirect control over sports, thereby, defeating the actual essence of the sports [4].


Many intellectual property issues are related to sports as it is considered to be popular and an effective tool for brand marketing.

This doctrine first appeared in the case of Haelan Laboratories Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. [5]. In this case, the court noted that it would be unfair for the prominent individuals like sportsmen to be deprived of the opportunity to make money by permitting others to use their likenesses in advertising without their permission.

There was one more case of Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting [6] in which the plaintiff sued a local television station for videotaping and airing of her act after she explicitly prohibited the station from doing so. The Appellate Court ruled in the favor of television station but it sided with the Plaintiff, explaining that protection of Plaintiff’s right to publicity prevents unjust enrichment by the theft of good will.


Competition Act of India, 2002 invalidates those agreements that cause a considerable adverse effect on competitiveness. There has been a continuous controversy on the the issues relating to the grant of broadcasting rights of the sporting events. There is a need to lay down clear rules governing the same [7].


Doping refers to the use of banned athlete performance-enhancing drugs by athletic competitors. This is considered unethical and, hence, prohibited by most international sports organisations. It has been stated by the anti-doping authorities that using performance-enhancing drugs goes against the spirit of sport. As per the 2017 report, more than 35% of athletes competing at the 2011 World Championships admitted of using banned substances during their careers [8]. Some of the most frequently utilized substances are narcotics, analgesics and selective androgen receptor modulators. From a legal point of view, the athlete is 100% responsible for the substances that enter his/her body. If he/she accidentally ingests the forbidden substance, they are still responsible for it [9].

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), “The purpose of an anti-doping program is to protect the athletes’ fundamental rights to participate in doping-free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality for athletes worldwide…” [10].

There are some more ethical and other issues that must be addressed by sports law i.e. equality and discrimination in sports, gender issues, sexual harassment issues in sports, global politics, corruption and many more.


Sports has been a neglected area in India for a long period but the situation has changed over the last two decades. In the case of M.P. Triathlon Association through its Secretory and Anr. v. Indian Triathlon Federation and Ors. court highlighted the need of arbitration as a mode of dispute settlement and also said:

It is rather unfortunate and we feel that every Indian citizen would feel ashamed of the fact that not even one sports-person out of the huge population of 94 crores could find a place in the victory stand in the Olympic Games 1996 held at Atlanta. Instead, all these Associations are busy in the court proceedings and spending their spirit on the litigation instead of inculcating spirit of sports in the track and field. These cases are some instances of the deplorable state of affairs.” [11]

Courts have always given elaborate judgements whenever they get an opportunity to comment upon sports and its developments. ADR has been encouraged and sports law jurisprudence may develop on the lines of WTO law jurisprudence.

The judgement of Supreme Court in the case of Zee Telefilms Ltd and Anr v. Union of India [12] is referred to as the Magna Carta of Indian Sports Law. In this case, the question arose due to the arbitrary termination of the broadcasting agreement by the BCCI with Zee Telefilms. The plaintiff filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. But the Supreme Court held that BCCI is not a State within the meaning of Article 12.


The Indian government established The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports for the creation of infrastructure and promotion of capacity development for broad-basing sports and for the achievement of excellence in different national and international competitions. Sports law in India is regulated and governed by [13]:

1. National Sports Policy

The National Sports Policy, 1984 was created with the moto of uplifting the standard of sports in the country. But it has been noticed that its implementation is not complete. Then, The National Sports Policy 2001 was drafted to reformulate the National Sports Policy of 1984.

2. Sports Law and Welfare Association of India

It is a national-level professional and non-profit organization which aims at advancing, appreciating and ethically practising Sports Law in India for promoting sports by joining the legal practitioners and the sportsmen. It provides consultation regarding general issues relating to sports and the law, matters relating to intellectual property within sports domain, regulating the governing bodies of sports.

3. Sports Authority of India

It fulfils the need of an apex body in the area of sports law for coordinating various sports activities in India and it has extended its area of operations now to promote broad-based sports. It also provides for the strengthening of inputs for excellence and academic programs, coaching and physical education awareness programs and many more.

4. The law relating to broadcasting of sports events in India

The Sports Broadcasting Signals Act was enacted and implemented in 2007, for providing access to the highest number of listeners and viewers, over a free to air medium of sports events of national importance through mandatory sharing of sports broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati and for related and incidental matters [14]


Though the term ‘Sports Law’ is non-existential in the expressions of legal terminology. It is looked in through the lens of various applicable laws like criminal, commercial and civil. Due to the increase of commercialization of sports, the question of Competition laws, Intellectual Property laws, Contract laws have been invoked. Papalaukas Marious has clearly explained the true meaning of sports law and difficulty faced in its development in the following words:

“Sport has certain unique characteristics, which must be safeguarded if it is not to be transformed into something very different. The difficulty lies into clarifying how the law can be applied to economic aspects of sport taking account of its uniqueness and character. State authorities, legislators, judges, lawyers, market analysts, should start considering the area of sports as a special area in every aspect. All legal or financial rules applying to other economic activities are to be thoroughly examined before applied to sports. In order to regulate sports activities legal provisions and economic rules sometimes have to be reformed and sometimes they have to be rejected.” [15]


1. ‘Issues in Emerging Area of Sports Law: Lex Sportiva’ Indian Law Review, Vol 1 No. 1, pp. 114-147, Inaugural Issue 2009 - National Law Institute University, Bhopal.

2. https://www.lawctopus.com/seminar-on-changing-dimensions-of-sports-law-at-purc-ludhiana/

3. https://medium.com/the-%C3%B3pinion/changing-dimensions-of-sports-law-analysis-in-the-light-of-prevailing-concepts-in-the-usa-75280327d3e1.

4. https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-reforms-indian-sports-law/.

5. 202 F.2d 866 (2d Cir. 1953).

6. 433 U.S. 562, 563-564 (1977).

7. https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-reforms-indian-sports-law/.

8. 480 US 941 (1987).

9. https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/41084175

10. https://www.sportsmedtoday.com/doping-va-119.htm.

11. ‘Issues in Emerging Area of Sports Law: Lex Sportiva’ Indian Law Review, Vol 1 No. 1, pp. 114-147, Inaugural Issue 2009 - National Law Institute University, Bhopal.

12. (2005) 4 SCC 649.

13. https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-reforms-indian-sports-law/.

14. Ibid.

15. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1310446

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