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Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Integrating Sustainable Development Goals into Sports Governance

Written by Mani Balaji S

I. Introduction

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), embraced in 2012, are becoming deeply ingrained in all facets of human endeavor, including businesses, climate action, employment, gender equality, and advancements that enhance human well-being and prosperity. This comprehensive framework addresses a broad spectrum of human needs, from eradicating poverty and hunger to fostering gender equality and cultivating peaceful societies. When integrated with requisite efforts, resources, and effective governance, sports emerge as a pivotal force in realizing these Sustainable Development objectives.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscores the significance of sports as a vital facilitator of sustainable development, acknowledging its increasingly substantial role in advancing development and peace. Sports are recognized for promoting tolerance, respect, and empowerment, aligning with the objectives of the SDGs.


Paragraph 37 of the Political Declaration within resolution 70/1, titled "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," accentuates this stance. At the highest level, UN Member States acknowledge sports as a significant driver of sustainable development. They appreciate the expanding contribution of sports towards achieving development and peace, particularly in fostering tolerance, respect, and empowerment. Furthermore, sports are acknowledged for their role in empowering women, young people, individuals, and communities while also contributing to health, education, and social inclusion objectives.


In essence, the integration of sports into the broader agenda of sustainable development is emphasized as pivotal for realizing the shared goals of global prosperity and well-being. This recognition underscores the multifaceted contributions of sports, extending beyond mere recreation to encompass critical aspects of social progress and human development. Through sports, individuals find avenues for self-expression, teamwork, and personal growth, fostering a sense of belonging and community that strengthens the fabric of society.



II. Importance of sports in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s 2015 analysis identified the following goals in particular where sports could play a key contributor in fulfilling the following goal objectives:-

1. Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on improving the well-being of people belonging to all ages as well as making everyone’s lives healthier. As per several reports, the health benefits of sports and physical activity are unparalleled. They are not only beneficial to a person’s physical health but also promote mental wellness. Research has proven a strong association between sports and reduction in musculoskeletal disorders and reduced disability due to chronic disease, better mental health with reduced anxiety, insomnia, depression, stress, and other psychological disorders.


2. Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on promoting inclusivity and fostering an environment conducive to learning and education by granting optimum activities to all individuals. Education is no longer only limited to traditional classroom learning. Several institutions are recognizing the importance of integrating physical education into their curriculum.

In 2018, a bill by the name of The Compulsory Yoga and Sports Education in Schools was introduced to cultivate sports talent and by making it obligatory on the Central and State Governments to provide the requisite infrastructure for the purpose of promoting better health of school going students.

The Government has come up with the Khelo India scheme where implementation of sports education at grassroot levels is to be achieved by focusing on the parameters of a better sports infrastructure, identification of talent, providing proper training and mentorship, fostering excellence and community bonding, enhancing competition in sports and improving sports economy. The focus of these initiatives primarily on children of school going ages has emphasized the importance of inculcating sports education on children right during their formative years in order to establish a better rapport with the health benefits accruing to the same.


3. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals which aims at promoting gender equality and women empowerment are being fulfilled currently as per the statistics of increase in women participation in important sports events such as Summer Olympic Games as well as Winter Olympic Games. However to ultimately bridge the gender gap in sports participation better sports governance infrastructure will definitely bring the goal into fruition.


4. Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on employment creation in a sustainable way by offering job opportunities for all. According to a 2021 report, the Sports Management Industry in India is growing at approximately 15% per annum as per sources and it contributes to 0.5% share of the global GDP, whereas in India it contributes only 0.1% to the GDP. The number of institutions offering sports education in order to train people to join employment in the sports industry are also increasing exponentially. Not only is there more demand for employment in the sports industry currently but with the surge in interest in sports activities, newer jobs have emerged in the sports field ranging from legal, marketing, administrative, human resources media, research as well as sports analysts.


5. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals on enhancing inclusivity and peace among communities at all levels. Inclusion in sports has been one of the key factors in promoting peace and uniting communities all by the means of a common shared interest. This inclusion is not just restricted to gender and social background. It signifies inclusion of people from different walks of life irrespective of their age, region or gender bound by their common interest for sports. It fosters better human relationships, more empathy, development of a stronger community for sports, creation of sports clubs and enhancing sports knowledge.


III. Legal dimensions of sports governance in India


1. The National Sports Development Code of India, 2011

The National Sports Development Code of India, 2011, has been a game-changer in promoting fair and transparent practices across all sports organizations in the country. Its main aim is to boost sports education, ensure gender equality, increase competitiveness, and improve public health through physical activity. This is because the code, sports bodies are held accountable for their actions, just like any government entity established by the judiciary through various rulings. This means these organizations have a big responsibility to improve the sports industry in India. By adhering to these principles, they not only ensure a level playing field for athletes but also contribute to the overall growth and health of the nation through sports.


2. The National Education Policy, 2020

The National Education Policy of 20209 is poised to bolster sustainable development efforts by prioritizing education, talent cultivation, and the establishment of a fair and inclusive society. Embracing the ethos of equality, the policy elevates sports to the same level as other academic subjects, eliminating the divide between sports as a curricular and extracurricular activity. Critical provisions within this policy emphasize the significance of providing sports equipment, grants, and enhancing sports infrastructure. The policy aims to cultivate a holistic educational environment that fosters physical well-being, teamwork, and character development alongside academic excellence by affording sports equal status and investing in necessary resources.


IV. Suggestions and conclusion

The existing sports governance framework in India is single-handedly all-encompassing in nature and caters to the development, broadcasting and conduct of sports events. However, there is a crucial need to recognize sports institutions as entities with significant societal responsibilities akin to the state. This acknowledgement would foster a greater sense of duty among these organizations to serve the sports community more effectively, recognizing their pivotal role in building sustainable sports infrastructure.

The elements of Sustainable Development Goals should seep into every activity involved in sports starting right from providing physical education in all educational institutions in the country, escalation in sports infrastructure upgradation, talent acquisition, training and sustainable conduct of events. The State Governments should take maximum responsibility in ensuring the seepage of sustainable development objectives into the sports arena by better organization of resources meant specifically for the purpose of sports. Awareness on the employment benefits accruing to the sports industry should also be inculcated.

Sports teams at the grassroot levels must reflect inclusiveness in order to bring about a significant change on national as well as international levels. Grants and aids from the Central and State governments as well as well known sports organizations must be offered to talented and well-deserved individuals to improve their morale and motivation and push themselves to the best of their abilities. This support not only boosts morale and motivation but also enables deserving athletes to realize their full potential and excel in their respective disciplines. Ultimately, fostering a supportive ecosystem for sports from the ground up is essential for the sustainable growth and success of the industry in India.

*The Author is a legal Scholar from India

(The Image used here is for representative purposes only)


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