The article 'Sports Law and the Rise of International Autonomous Sports Law Bodies' explores the emergence and growing influence of international autonomous sports law bodies as crucial players in regulating the sports industry.

The article 'Sports Law and the Rise of International Autonomous Sports Law Bodies' explores the emergence and growing influence of international autonomous sports law bodies as crucial players in regulating the sports industry. The world of sports law has evolved significantly over the years, propelled by the globalization of sports and the complex legal issues that accompany it. This article explores the emergence and growing influence of international autonomous sports law bodies as crucial players in regulating the sports industry.


To begin our discussion on sports law, it is imperative to first infer the definition and scope of sports law. This highlights the importance of substantiating whether sports law exists as a separate substantive law body in the corpus of laws, globally. While it can be said that sports law currently does not represent any separate substantive area of law, the possibility of this appearing in the near future is high. This is being stated in parlance with the growing relevance of sports in society which makes it relevant that there must be laws for the purpose of governing the activities and all matters that are thereby incidental to it.

Sports Law: An Amalgamation of Different Laws or a Separate Law Altogether?

One of the eminent scholars who have participated in the debate regarding sports law, Professor Gardiner has stated that sports law might be understood, if not as a separate body of law, then as an amalgamation of various types of legal disciplines such as contract law, taxation law, criminal law, competition law, and even employment law.

However, it is to be noted that this interpretation of sports law might not be entirely true in today’s scenario where this legal arena is rather flourishing. Meaning to say, the scope of sports law has now widened including areas which may not be covered by an ‘amalgamation of existing laws’ and might require a new set of legal principles for the purpose of governing them. For instance, sports legal ethics, sports representation, sports and disability/ race (issues relating to discrimination), international ramifications of sports law etc.

Importance of Sports Law

Let us understand the separate areas where the importance of sports law can be gauged in order to understand why the same is relevant in today’s context:

A. Negotiation of Contracts

Athletes and sports players must be extremely careful while signing contracts relating to terms such as salaries, performance bonuses, and contract length. The legal issues that form part of such contract negotiations are often very complex and can also lead to breach of contract or imposition of penalties etc.

B. Antitrust Laws

It is crucial to regulate the ways in which teams, leagues, and other organizations included in sports activities conduct their business so as to ensure that there aren’t any practices which can be termed as anti-competitive such as price fixing, market manipulation, forming monopolies etc.

C. Intellectual Property Rights

Matters included here are rights of broadcasting, protection of logos, trademarks, and other intellectual property. All sports organizations must be cautious and protective of their intellectual property.

D. Labour Laws

It must be understood that athletes and sports players can be understood to be ‘employees’ and thus they too have the rights and obligations as are present with the employees otherwise. Thus labour and employment-related laws also become important.

E. Other areas

Doping, match-fixing, betting and gambling, disputes among players or players and sports organizations, harassment and discrimination, and other related, incidental issues also need due regard to be regulated. These areas are thus also covered under the scope of sports law and become important as a result.

Sports Law in India: Legislations and Governing Bodies

India does not have any specific legislation that deals with sports law particularly. However, there is the National Sports Policy, 2001 which attempts to cover the aspects related to the establishment of national sports federations for governance of sports activities in India and also related issues such as grants to those federations etc. ‘Sports’ has been included in the Seventh Schedule as Entry 33 in the State List under the Constitution of India.

Following are the authorities and governing bodies for sports in India:

a. Sports Authority of India- It is an apex body and was set up by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in the year 1984. It works on a national level for the purpose of conducting sports in the country. It is also responsible for the promotion and encouragement of sports in the country.

b. Sports Law and Welfare Association of India- This is a professional non-profit organization which works to improve the laws relating to sports in India. It assists in bringing together lawyers, and sports persons in order to provide all relevant legal aid and advice that must be needed by them.

c. National Sports Federation- This body is entrusted with the task of promoting the fundamental principles of Sports at the national level, in parlance with the national framework of sports in the country.

d. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports- One of the major tasks of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is to give recognition to various national sports federations in order to assist in the overall development of sports in the country and to also assist in the development of sports activities in the country.

e. Separate Governing Bodies for team sports such as BCCI, Indian Hockey Federation etc.

In India, it can be stated that the sports industry is yet to flourish to its full extent. There is support from the government bodies but it appears that more needs to be done even in the legal aspect in order to aid the industry in growing and being successful. Issues such as corruption, match fixing, betting, discrimination based on gender and race, and sexual harassment of women players are some of the hurdles restricting the success of the sports industry in India. It is important to monitor ethical compliance by sports organizations and the players as well. For this, the existing national sports federations, and government bodies regulating sports activities need to be more empowered and they must function on a uniform set of laws and guidelines.

International Autonomous Sports Law Bodies

The presence and existence of international non-governmental organizations play an extremely crucial role in establishing a self-regulating private legal order for sports in general, at the global level. These bodies are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and several other international sports federations. The role played by these autonomous bodies in the promotion of sports and the conduct of smooth gaming activities globally is evident.

International sports federations can be understood as autonomous bodies that cater to the respective sport for which they are established at the international level. In a legal sense, they can be understood to be private associations that are established as per the domestic laws and whose members are the national sporting associations, as per their consent to be a part of the membership. The International Sports Federations (IIFs) are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of their sport. IOC (International Olympic Committee) recognizes the IIFs for further delegating the task of administering the sport to them. Some of the IIFs for the governance of separate sports are:

a. Badminton World Federation (BWF)

b. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

c. International Basketball Federation (FIBA)

d. International Golf Federation (IGF)

e. International Gymnastics Federation (FIG)

f. United World Wrestling (UWW)

g. International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)

h. International Tennis Federation (ITF)

i. International Volleyball Federation (FIVB)


While there continues to be the absence of international law governing sports, there exist international autonomous bodies that have taken up the onus of regulating and governing the various aspects of sports activities and the matters relating and incidental to it, thereby. This enunciates how there exists a certain level of regulation in the arena of sports while acceptance of the need for developing relevant legislation is underway.

The need for uniformity can only be resolved by the presence of laws that is adhered to by all the countries but the same is a lengthy process for it will have to be done for all the games that are played at the international level. The autonomous bodies, however, are able to govern the separate relevant aspects of sports. More empowerment and aid if provided to such autonomous bodies, would be easier to regulate all the parts that require attention in the arena of sports law.


[1] International Sports Federations, Available Here

[2] Carmen Pérez González, International Sports Law, Available Here

[3] Anil Kumar Thakur and Reetinder Kaur, Sports Law in India: Present Status and Future Road Map, Available Here

[4] Manisha Sudarshan, The Emergence of Sports Law, International Journal of Law Management & Humanities, Volume 2, Issue 4 | ISSN: 2581-5369

[5] Sports Law, Available Here

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Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma is an advocate with an LL.M specializing in Business Law. He is a legal research aficionado and is actively indulged in legal content creation. His forte is researching on contemporary legal issues.

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