Gujarat National Law University
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Director(Vice-Chancellor) Speeches & Important Messages

"Importance of a National Sports Law Centre for the Growth and Development of Sports Industry in India", Inauguration of 1st National Seminar on Sports Law organized by the GNLU Centre for Sports Law, Forest Research Institute, Gandhinagar, Saturday, 20 March 2010.

Dear friends,
I, as a director of a national law university and an academician humbly believe in the importance of sports. Human beings are involved in sports activities since times immemorial. From the earliest days of human civilization till date, sports have developed from a mere source of personal entertainment to a global industry comprising more than 3% of world trade. Documented sporting events have been occurring in the human history since the era of ancient Olympics in the 8th century BC. Since then much evolution has taken place in the way sporting events have been organized, but no attention has been paid in regulating such development.
The dawn of the 21st century envisages Sports as one of the largest revenue generating industries of the world and with the proliferation of the Internet and other forms of media, the sports industry is set to grow even at a faster pace in the future. An industry of billions of dollars with a pervasive global presence is bound to breed its own disputes and this resulted in the growth and development of sports law as a separate discipline in its own right.
Sports have played an integral part in the life of Indians. Games like cricket and tennis have always been in the public eye. But the growth and development of sports remain highly unregulated in India. Sports as a whole comprise innumerable rules and regulations, and to ensure a smooth functioning and growth of sporting events we need a code of conduct and obligations in the form of ‘Sports law’.
Sports law is no longer an applied law or an amalgam of laws in some jurisdictions, which have taken the lead and enacted separate legislations concerning sports. For instance, in India sports figures in the Concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule (entry 33) of the Constitution on which both the union and state legislatures are competent to make laws. There are already 3 States; Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which have enacted laws on regulating sports activity including registration, regulation and recognition of Sports Associations (Uttar Pradesh has since repealed the Act). Gujarat, if I am correct, is yet to enact such laws and bye-laws.
In common parlance, Sports law is an umbrella term used to describe the legal issues at work in the world of both amateur and professional sports. Sports law overlaps substantially with labor law, contract law, antitrust law, and tort law. Issues like defamation and privacy rights are also an integral aspect of sports law. The area of law was established as a separate and important entity only a few decades ago, coinciding with the rise of player-agents and increased media scrutiny of sports law topics. Hence I believe that due to a high level of overlapping of various fields, it is mandatory that a proper pedagogy may be evolved for disseminating this knowledge.
Over the years sports has drastically come into the limelight of media. This has in turn promoted and propagated the growth of sports law. And to further promote the growth of sports law, it is important that lawyers be made aware of this law so that these legislations are further brought into the limelight and hence further legislation or its revision be encouraged. Sports, in India, have evolved to be more than merely games. A lot of financial importance has been attached to them. It has now turned into a global multibillion-dollar industry. As a matter of example, Indian premiere league broadcasting rights were sold for 108 million US dollars. This exemplifies the amount of financial capital involved in sports industry. A recent controversy in cricket with regards to World Anti-Doping Agency agreement again brought to limelight the importance and necessity of having a law uniformly applicable and regulating in nature governing the matters pertaining to sports. Thus a uniform code is needed to regulate these events.
The spectrum of sports is so wide that it even incorporates various legal concepts. For instance, sports law has an intrinsic relation with the law of torts.
Until recently, torts were never a part of the landscape of sports law. However, in 1975 an Illinois' appeals court established the notion that players can be found guilty of negligence if their actions are "deliberate, willful or with a reckless disregard for the safety of another player so as cause injury to that player. Negligence torts are typically harder to prove in contract sports, where violent actions and injuries are more common and thus more expected. Spectators can also sue for negligence if their injuries could not have been expected given the nature of the sporting event they were attending. A cricket fan sitting in the stadium could reasonably expect a baseball could come toward the seat, but a wrestling fan sitting courtside could not reasonably expect a wrestler to come flying his or her way. Some of us will be quite aware of the case of Scottish footballer Duncan Ferguson (I do not whether he is now playing for Everton Football Club in England) who was convicted following a head butt against an opponent and became the first professional soccer player to be imprisoned for an on-the-field assault.
Sports' tort law extends into other less obvious areas. Team doctors could be liable for medical malpractice, a form of negligence, for giving a player a false clean bill of health just so that player may continue to perform. A player who purposefully causes bodily harm to another athlete, coach or spectator may be guilty of committing an intentional tort along with a criminal act of assault and battery. The law of defamation protects a person's good character or reputation. The publication of false information about a well-known athlete (public figure) may be actionable if it was published with a reckless disregard for the truth or actual malice. The growth of non-traditional media outlets, e.g. web pages, instant messaging, cable, etc. has added a new dynamic to this area of the law.
Closely related to the subject of torts in some ways, is the area of publicity rights. While the tort of defamation protects a person's reputation, the right of publicity permits a person to commercial exploit his or her likeness, name and image. Thus the notion sports law includes trademarks, tradenames, domain names and even copyrights.
Globally, sports law is employed in the field of sports, physical education and its related field. It is referred to as a complete law which governs the area where law interacts with Sports. Nowadays, there is growing trend of interaction between law and the world of Sports which in turn, has created demand for a greater understanding of the relation between Law and Sports.
In India, the Legal Consultation Center within the premises of the Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education has been established in 1996 with an initiative to create awareness about the laws regulating the field of Sports and offer expert consultations in diverse disciplines, such as sports law and policy, contract, tort, taxation, labor, competition, TV rights, match fixing and related criminal laws. As mass media plays the fundamental role in popularizing Sports, the government has taken suitable measures to mobilize the Electronic Media, including the National Broadcasters, the Private Channels and the Print Media for strengthening a Sports Culture in the country. The National Sports Policy of India seeks to raise the standard of Sports in India.
As per the terms of National Sports Policy, 2001 the Central Government, in association with the State Government, the Olympic Association (IOA) and the National Sports Federation seeks to pursue the objectives of “Broad-basing” of Sports and “Achieving Excellence in Sports at the National and International levels”. The Policy attempts to promote the Sports activities in which the country has potential strength and competitive advantage.
Further, there are various schemes formulated and implemented by the Government of India as regulatory measure for the Sports Sector, such as scheme relating to infrastructure, scheme relating to Events of Sports, scheme relating to Awards, scheme of incentive for promotion of Sports Activities, scheme relating to talent search and training, scheme of Dope Test and Scheme of State Sports Academy. Therefore to inculcate the true meaning and spirit of sports in today’s youth it is essential that they are acquainted with laws and regulations which govern the sports. The sports broadcasting also play an important rule. The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act was passed in 2007 with an objective to provide access to the largest number of listeners and viewers, on a free to air basis, of sporting events of national importance through mandatory sharing of sports broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act provides that any content right owner or holder television or radio broadcasting service provider shall not carry a live television broadcast on any cable or Direct-to-Home network or radio commentary broadcast in India of sporting events of national importance, unless it simultaneously shares the live broadcasting signal, without its advertisements, with the PrasarBharati to enable them to re-transmit the same on its terrestrial networks and Direct-to-Home networks in such manner and on such terms and conditions as may be specified. The Act authorizes the Central Government to specify penalties to be imposed, including suspension or revocation of licence, permission or registration, for violation of various terms and conditions as specified under the Act, subject to the condition that amount of a pecuniary penalty shall not exceed one crore rupees provided that no penalty shall be imposed without giving a reasonable opportunity to the service provider.
Thus even though the government has embarked upon various pursuits to create a sports law regime in India, a lot needs to be done still! For the sake of spreading legal awareness about sports law, Gujarat national law university has taken a milestone step in introducing sports law in its curriculum. It has also established a sports law centre in it’s campus for the sake of promoting legal research, education and awareness in sports law. We are planning to organise certificate courses in-house and distance, training for sports coaches, sports regulators, create a whole sports law manual where one can find the macro and micro legal aspects of sports, and of course bring from time to time sports celebrities to understand their legal issues.
I believe that I have well argued my case for a dedicated centre on Sports Law first of its kind in India envisaged and run by a national law university. This is one more attempt of GNLU to identify its niche in the academic and legal markets of the country to serve the same with distinct education, research and training. I believe that this important step taken by the Gujarat National Law University would benefit the budding lawyers and go a long way in imparting knowledge and would encourage substantial research in the recently developed field of sports law. I invite Centre Director Prof Richa Sharma, and her team of faculty and students to explore cooperation avenues with Marquette University Law School (USA), University of Pretoria (South Africa), Budapest University (Hungary), Max-Planck Institute (Germany), Vrij Universiteit (Amsterdam, Netherlands), University of Leuven (Belgium), Asser Institute (Netherlands), Melbourne University Law School (Australia), De Montfort Law School (UK) and provide an intellectual policy-oriented leadership in this economically most powerful emerging area of law. I am sure Secretary Mr Jha, and the Director-General Sports Authority of India would be too pleased and appreciate if the GNLU Sports Law Centre will come forward and assist the sports industry in true public-private partnership mode.
It is an honour for Gujarat National Law University to play an important role in promoting extensive research and create awareness about sports law. I thank once again the Department of Sports of Government of India and Government of Gujarat for providing valuable assistance to this seminar, Ministry of Environment and Forest for this beautiful auditorium, team led by Prof Richa Sharma, GNLU registrar and his team of administrative affairs, most importantly students who will benefit with the knowledge which will be created, disseminated and implemented for the betterment of sport industry and sportspersons of India. Finally, I thank Vipul Jain, Shivansh Pandya and Aayog Doshi for their valuable research assistance.
Bimal N. Patel,