This article is written by Ankita Wani of, A.K.K. New Law Academy, Pune, an intern under Legal Vidhiya
“Sports can unite worlds, tear walls and transcend race, the past, and all probability. Unlike life, sport matters.”
— Shehan Karunatilaka
Athletics in India has a history which dates back to the Vedic period and it can be said that the principles of the Atharva Veda gave shape to the foundation of Indian athletics. Nevertheless, it is really a mystery as to when exactly athletics in India built its presence felt as a distinct sports form.
This article provides a complete overview of legal and ethical implications of athlete in sports in India. The article explores the key legal aspects of sports law in India, including governance and regulation of sports organizations, contractual agreements in sports, intellectual property rights, anti-doping regulations, player transfers, sponsorship, and advertising, sports dispute resolution, and the international dimension of sports law.
Additionally, it touches upon challenges, and potential reforms in the field. Overall, the article aims to give readers a clear understanding of the legal framework surrounding sports in India and its implications for numerous stakeholders.
Sports law in India, legal framework of sports in India, Anti-doping regulations, sports law bill 2021, ethical implications of athlete in sports, international sports law and India, issues and challenges faced by athletes in India, suggestions.
Sports law in India is a specialized area of law that deals with the legal aspects of sports undertakings, organizations, and individuals included in sports. It incorporates a wide range of legal issues and regulations that shape the sports activity within the country. One of the key aspects of sports law in India is the regulation of sports establishments and their governance. The National Sports Development Code of India (NSDCI) stipulates guidelines and regulations for the establishment, administration, and conduct of National Sports Federations (NSFs) in the country. It sets out rules concerning elections, tenure, transparency, and accountability of sports bodies.
Anti-doping regulations are essential in upholding the integrity of sports. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in India implements and applies anti-doping rules in conformity with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.
These regulations’ purpose to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs and ensure fair competition. Furthermore, sports law in India addresses issues such as player transfers, disciplinary procedures, sponsorship and advertising regulations, and broadcasting rights. It also comprehends dispute resolution mechanisms within sports organizations and federations, including internal tribunals and arbitration panels.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) aids as an international body for determining sports-related disputes. The legal landscape of sports in India is moulded by both national and international laws and regulations. It aims to create a fair and transparent atmosphere for sports, protect the rights of athletes and sports organizations, and facilitate the growth and development of the sports industry in the country.
The objective of this article is to :
- Study about the concept and history of sports in India.
- To know about the authorities governing sports law in India.
- Examine the legal framework of sports in India.
- Learn about the ethical implications of athlete in India.
- Highlight the issues and challenges faced by athletes in India.
Sports like chariot racing, archery, horsemanship, military tactics, wrestling, weight lifting, swimming and hunting made Athletics a massive presence in the Vedic age or much later in the period of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Historical evidence shows that Indian athletics acquired an astonishing dimension, during the Buddhism era and many events like archery, equestrian, hammer throwing and chariot-racing were in vogue during that period. All these games were made mandatory in the military training sessions of the Indian empires, during that period.
Hiking, walking, `gulli-danda`, throwing also made their presence touched during the medieval period in ancient India. Most of these events were actually the ancestors of the track and field events of the Athletics of today and were immensely popular in India, as they were all focused on body fitness. The configuration and character of sports in India began to change in the course of time, still leaving space for the up gradation of sports and Athletics in India.
It still remains a mystery, the exact timing when the contemporary form of Athletics games started its journey in India, yet, it is generally specified that the present day. Athletics was being played in an unorganised way in India till Independence and it was in 1946, when Indian Athletics began to be managed in an organised manner.
The most noteworthy in the history of Indian Athletics was the decade of 1940’s and 1950’s as a number of Athletics associations were started in India during that period. In 1946, the Amateur Athletics Federation of India (AAFI) was established for the organization of Indian Athletics.
Indian Athletics went through many stages as it evolved. Many track and field games were played in the grass and cinder tracks in the initial period and later on people started playing on the synthetic surface in main competitions. Application of technology in the game of Athletics improved its status further as preserving the record of players’ timing became much easier.
Indian Athletes have become an integral part of the history of Indian Athletics, as they lead to considerable amount of glory to the nation as they showed their brilliance in various Athletics events in the international level in the course of years. India has so far produced a number of successful athletes in the international level who have a amusing tradition of stunning performances in the international tournaments.
Some of the most successful Athletes in the initial history of Indian Athletics are Milkha Singh, T. C Yohannan, Gurbachan Singh, etc.
Some of the prominent Indian Athletes in the contemporary period include P T Usha, Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, Saraswati Saha, Soma Biswas, Abhinav Bhindra, Sushil Kumar, etc.
NATIONAL SPORTS POLICY 2001
Year 2001, Seventeen years had passed since the first sports policy was introduced by India with an aim to encourage physical education and create culture of sports in the country. However, in spite of this the NSP 1984 could not achieve the desired results. Even the government acknowledged the fact. Therefore, in light of the above the government decided to reformulate the policy and introduce it in a new package in form of National Sports Policy 2001.
After intensive discussion with the State government, a National and State federation the National Sports Policy 2001 was launched.
The Policy depicts following guidelines:
- The first objective was to obviously define the areas of responsibility of all those agencies that looked after the elevation and development of sports.
- The second objective was to establish those sports federations that were eligible enough for coverage under these guidelines and then to lay down the procedures that have to be followed by these federations to get governmental aid and assistance and even gain sponsorship.
- The third step was to choose the eligibility criteria which the Government will follow to release grants to the Sports Federations.
Even the Central Government came up with certain objectives of its own with accordance to the provisions of the National Sports Policy, 2001 like Broad Basing of Sports, making Physical Education a essential subject in schools, helping in the advancement of sports and achieving excellence in sports at both national and international levels along with the support of the State Government.
To achieve all these goals, Sports was included in the State List under the Seventh Schedule (Entry 33) in the Constitution of India.
The Sports Broadcasting Signals Act, 2007
The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act got approval from the President of India on 19th March 2007 and was passed on 11th November 2005.
The purpose of the Act was to provide free-to-air access to sports events of national importance to viewers through Prasar Bharti, a public broadcaster in India. This act requires the mandatory sharing of broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharti and is categorised into four chapters and with a total of 10 sections.
Under Section 3 of the Act, all private content owners and television or radio service providers have to mandatorily share the live broadcasting signals of sports events of national importance with Prasar Bharti, denied any advertisement or logo of the signal provider. This enables Prasar Bharti to convey the same signals through its terrestrial and direct-to-home networks such as Doordarshan, All India Radio, among others.
In the case of allowing advertisement by private service networks, Prasar Bharti can produce revenue through such commercials. The revenue-sharing ratio between the content owner and Prasar Bharti is 75:25 in television and 50:50 in radio coverage.
The arrangement under this section makes some sporting events of national significance available to many viewers unwilling to subscribe or cannot afford private service providers.
AUTHORITIES GOVERNING SPORTS LAW IN INDIA
Sports Law and Welfare Association of India
The Sports Law and Welfare Association of India is a professional non-profit organization working at the national level for raise of the ethical practice of Sports Law in India. Its goal is to know and improve the current laws relating to Sports and to ensure that these laws flow smoothly to maintain the sports industry. It does so by bringing the legal practitioners and the sportspersons together and giving advice on any legal issues that the person might be going through.
Apart from this, the association also acts as an adviser on matters like regulation of the Sports governing bodies, general disputes linked to sports, intellectual property matters, online advocating and promoting, etc. It also aims at discussing any of the legal issues that are affecting sports or any of the sportspersons and interchange a variety of perspectives on legal matters.
It will also create a opportunity for all the lawyers representing the athletes, teams, leagues, conferences, recreational and educational institutions, and working in organizations that are tangled with Olympic, physical education, and amateur sports. This forum will help in setting up laws to ensure that ethics are followed in sports.
Sports Authority of India
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) is a national apex organization recognised in 1984 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to organize and organize various sports events across the country. Following a sequence of successful sporting events in the country, the government was encouraged to focus on the evolution of sports in India and to encourage young physical health.
The Sports Authority of India has extended its horizons to advocate a wide range of sports and to provide guidelines for young people to emphasis their efforts on sports excellence. It also recognized sports scholarships to encourage young people to participate in sports, as well as schemes to provide encouragements to those in need of training to improve the abilities of Indian athletes.
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports establishes the requirements for numerous National Sports Federations to be established and receive funding to promote sports events. It is in rush of managing, strengthening, and assisting the bodies that govern sports in India. In order to achieve excellence, the Ministry also executes long-term advancement plans.
National Sports Federation of India
The National Sports Federation of India (NSFOI) encourage the primary principles of Sports at a national level within the framework of sports. NSFOIs are dedicated to the development of athletes and support the development of sport for all programs and notable performance sport in country. We also participate in the training of sports administrators by organising educational and Sports programs.
sports ethics is a positive notion that directs human action in sports. It is defined as the code of conduct for encouraging and safeguarding healthy sporting practices. Sports ethics implies not just a certain form of behaviour but also a certain way of thinking.
Commonly depicted as six pillars of fair play, Standards are integral fundamentals of all sports activities, sports policy and management, and apply to all levels of ability and commitment, including recreational as well as competitive sports.
These are as follows:
- Always practice victory with honour.
- Demonstrate and demand integrity.
- Deal with the traditions of the sports and other participants with respect.
3.1) Be a positive role model on and off the pitch.
3.2) Take responsibility and educate yourself about matter of anti-doping. It’s up to you to comply with anti-doping policies.
4.1) Ensure that teams and athletes perform by the rules and treat others fairly.
5.1) Express concern for others. Never involve in careless conduct that could injure yourself or others. Support the team by encouraging your teammates.
ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS IN SPORTS
Contractual agreements in sports play an essential role in governing the relations and obligations between athletes, coaches, sports organizations, sponsors, and other shareholders. These agreements determine the terms and conditions under which parties engross in various activities within the sports industry. Athlete contracts are one of the most general types of contractual agreements in sports.
Employment agreements are also predominant, particularly for coaches, trainers, and other personnel encompassed in sports organizations. These agreements describe the terms of employment, including salary, job responsibilities, benefits, and termination clauses. Sponsorship and endorsement contracts are other crucial aspects of contractual agreements in sports.
Athletes and sports organizations enter into agreements with sponsors and brands to upgrade products or services. These contracts enumerate the scope of the endorsement, compensation, duration, and promotional obligations.
Contractual agreements in sports need to conform with legal requirements, including provisions related to labour laws, anti-discrimination laws, and intellectual property rights. Parties interested in sports contracts should ensure that the terms are clear, fair, and legally enforceable. Disputes linked to contractual agreements in sports are often determined through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. In some cases, disputes may be referred to outside bodies, such as sports arbitration panels or courts.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN SPORTS
Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) play an important role in the sports industry, protecting the creative and commercial aspects of sports organizations, athletes, and related entities.
Trademarks are a crucial facet of intellectual property rights in sports. Sports organizations, teams, and athletes often have unique names, logos, and symbols connected with them. Registering trademarks stipulates legal protection against unauthorized use or infringement, allowing entities to exclusively use their distinct branding elements and prevent others from using similar marks that may create uncertainty among consumers.
Intellectual property rights in sports are crucial for commercialization and monetization. They aid sports organizations, athletes, and sponsors to enter into licensing agreements, merchandising deals, and endorsement contracts. Licensing agreements admit entities to grant others the right to use their intellectual property in conversation for royalties or other forms of compensation.
ANTI-DOPING REGULATIONS AND INTEGRITY IN SPORTS
Anti-doping regulations and integrity in sports are vital aspects of sports law, aimed at maintaining fair competition, protecting athletes’ health, and conserving the integrity of sports. Anti-doping regulations administer the use of prohibited substances and methods in sports, while integrity measures concentrate on preventing match-fixing, corruption, and unethical practices.
In India, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) is accountable for implementing and enforcing anti-doping rules and regulations in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code. NADA conducts doping tests on athletes, educates them about anti-doping rules, and examines potential doping violations.
Match-fixing involves manipulating the outcome of sports events for illegal betting purposes.
Anti-doping violations can cause severe penalties, including suspensions, disqualifications, and forfeiture of medals or titles. Athletes who test positive for prohibited substances may face punishments and may be ineligible to participate in sports competitions for a specified period. Repeated offenses can lead to more severe sanctions and may result in permanent prohibitions from sports.
Tortious Liability for Injury Caused to a Sportsperson
Numerous games require laborious movement that might be exceptionally hard on the body and cause destruction to the athlete’s body.
Tortious liability for injury caused to a sports person and the extent of such liability can be categorized under the following:
a) Injury caused due to negligence of a Party;
b) Application of the principle of Vicarious Liability for the injury caused;
c) Mala fide and Deliberate intention to cause injury; and
d) Application of the test of Reasonable Foreseeability.
The Tort law in India has grew from the UK Tort Law and it is commonly known as “judge made law” since it is not codified. However, if likened to the number of cases that are filed under Tort law in the UK and US, litigation number connected to Tort in India is much lower. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in various landmark judgments has helped to form the Tort law in India.
In Union Carbide Corporation case the Apex Court had held that tort cases can be dealt with under Section 9 of CPC.
Mental Health Issues:
The stress to succeed in the competitive world of sports can take a toll on an athlete’s mental health. Many Indian sports athletes fight with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, but may not have access to adequate support and resources to address these challenges.
At one time, it would have been taboo. But American gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Naomi Osaka, cricketers Ben Stokes and Chris Gayle publicly proclaimed that they would prioritise their mental health over professional sport.
Several researchers in sport psychology have proposed conceptualizing mental health as part of a continuum rather than adhering to harsh diagnostic criteria and viewing it as a binary state.
On the other hand, Lundqvist and Andersson (2021) argue that continuum models do not provide any guidance concerning how to interpret symptoms and whether symptoms should be regarded as natural responses to sports or early symptoms of mental health problems or disorders.
Harassment In Sports:
In the context of India, a country with a rich sporting heritage and a flourishing sports industry, the challenges of gender discrimination and sexual harassment have gained enlarging attention. While India has produced various accomplished athletes, both male and female, and witnessed a surge in women’s participation in sports, it has also dealt with deep-rooted societal biases, unequal opportunities, and the scourge of sexual harassment within the sporting environment.
PLAYER TRANSFERS AND TRADE REGULATIONS
Player transfers and trade regulations in sports govern the drive of athletes between teams, clubs, or organizations. They play a vital role in maintaining fairness, transparency, and stability within the sports industry. Player transfers involve numerous aspects, including the negotiation of contracts, transfer fees, registration prerequisites, and eligibility criteria.
Following preventions can be taken: –
- Warming and cooling off
Stretching and mild exercise are often used to boost heart rate and increase muscle and joint use.
- Applying correct technique
Ascertaining to perform the right and safest moves for the sport or activity in which you are engaged is critical for avoiding sports injuries. This is especially significant when it comes to weight training, as incorrect technique is a major source of damage.
- Utilizing safety equipment
Several team sports have made the tiring of protective gear essential, which is a good start, but further precautions should be taken. Knee and elbow pads, spine protection, protective eyewear, wrestlers’ ear protection, mouth guards, and protective clothes and footwear are instances of this.
- Utilizing appropriate and fitted sporting equipment
Another tactic to avoid an unwanted injury is to wear and use equipment that is well-fitting and suitable for the sport. Borrowing equipment that does not fit from a friend or family member is a distinctive source of harm. Applying the incorrect size or weight of equipment might potentially result in harm.
- Obtaining enough rest
Sports injuries may also be avoided by getting adequate sleep at night, which is crucial for any healthy lifestyle but especially essential for persons who are highly active. Exhaustion is a significant cause of injury, and lack of sleep aggravates muscular weariness. It performs a vital role in chronic pain. 
HOW DOES DISPUTE RESOLUTION WORK?
Sports dispute resolution aims to provide a fair and efficient means of resolving disagreements and maintaining the integrity of sports.
1. Negotiation: Negotiation involves straight discussions between the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. It is an informal and non-binding process, often facilitated by lawyers or representatives.
2. Mediation: Mediation involves the help of a neutral third party, the mediator, who helps facilitate discussions and lead the parties toward a resolution. The mediator does not levy a decision but helps the parties find common ground and reach a voluntary settlement.
3. Arbitration: Arbitration is a formal process where the parties represent their case to one
or more arbitrators, who perform as private judges.
4. Litigation: Litigation implies taking the dispute to court, where a judge or jury determines the outcome.
INTERNATIONAL SPORTS LAW AND INDIA
International sports law mentions to the legal principles, regulations, and frameworks that govern sports activities on a universal scale. It encompasses various facets such as international sports governance, and regulations across different countries and sports organizations.
Here are some key areas where international sports law has an impact on India:
1. International Sports Governance: India is a member of international sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and various international sports federations. These organizations establish rules and regulations for their respective sports, which India must adhere to when participating in international competitions.
2. Athlete Eligibility and Transfers: International sports law governs the eligibility of Indian athletes to participate in international events. It sets criteria for athlete qualifications, age limits, nationality requirements, and anti-doping regulations.
3. International Sports Broadcasting and Sponsorship: International sports law also influences India’s sports broadcasting and sponsorship activities. Broadcasting and sponsorship rights for international events are governed by international agreements and regulations.
4.Anti-Doping Regulations: India is obliged by the World Anti-Doping Code, developed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The code establishes the standards and procedures for doping control in sports worldwide. Indian athletes are subject to antidoping regulations.
Zee Telefilms and Others vs Union of India
The Case is considered as landmark in the history of Indian Sports and as well as Indian Sports Law. The case was filed by the Zee Telefilms only because the BCCI has unfairly terminated the contract of Broadcasting rights.
HELD: – The Court after hearing both the parties decided that the BCCI didn’t fell under the ambit of State as they were not fulfilling sufficient criteria to be adjudged as State under the Article 12.
Rahul Mehra vs Union of India and others (2004)
This case was filed on the ground that both BCCI and Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) who are two major cricket bodies in the country were not governing the sports bodies as expected from them.
HELD- BCCI, the national governing body and DDCA, a major State cricket association should fall under Article 226.
In conclusion, sports law encompasses a wide range of legal principles, regulations, and frameworks that govern the sports industry. It covers various areas such as governance, contractual agreements, intellectual property rights, anti-doping regulations, player transfers, sponsorship, and dispute resolution. As the sports industry continues to evolve, several emerging trends shape sports law, including e-sports, data privacy, athlete welfare, gender equality, and online streaming. Additionally, international sports law influences India’s sports landscape, particularly in areas such as governance, athlete eligibility, anti-doping regulations, and dispute resolution.
By effectively addressing these challenges and implementing necessary reforms, sports law can contribute to the fair, sustainable, and inclusive development of the sports industry.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run int a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
- India’s sportspersons are finally opening up about their mental health – The Hindu
Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.