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Sports Law in India: An Urgent Requisite to Re-explore

*Paras Gupta




Introduction


Commenting upon the ‘law as a system of rules’, Salmond took ‘contract bridge’ as an exemplar. At that jiff, he would not have anticipated that the game's rules would take such a proportion that it would necessitate a separate branch of study called “sports law”. From a mere source of personal recreation and entertainment, sports have grown into a highly competitive industry with global pervasiveness.


Sports law is an amalgam of issues that deal with professional and amateur sports matters, national and international. The sports industry continues to be one of the most dominant players in entertainment and media. Still, it simultaneously gives rise to more significant problems, whether it be ensuring ethical sporting practices or hosting big events or providing licenses and infrastructure to the sportspersons. But, regrettably, there is no state or national legislation in India for the regulation of sports. Time and again, India has been plagued by controversies and scandals in the sporting world in the recent past that make it crucial to bring an apposite sports law to deal with these complex issues.


Unabated Instances of Scams and Controversies in the Indian Sports Industry


The Indian sports industry is loaded with instances of swindles and controversies. Though India has procured a fair deal as a sporting entity, there is an assortment of cases where the administrators and players have brought shame to the country by domineering and underhanded ways. Here is the list of such cases where the self-seeking and reckless behaviour of players and authorities has made a blot on the sporting spirit of India:


  • DDCA CONTROVERSY: The DDCA controversy could be tracked as the latest in the assembly line of sporting controversies that India has faced over recent years where the state associated is deeply embroiled in corruption. The demand for dissolving DDCA and imposing sanctions or even a life ban on it were being raised over time in the recent past.

  • IPL Spot Fixing and Betting Controversy(2013): In the 2013 IPL Spot Fixing and Betting Controversy, the owners of CSK and RR were suspended for their involvement in betting and players like Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan were handed life bans. The cancellation of its title sponsorship by Pepsi for 2015 came as a significant blow to the credibility of the IPL.

  • The Commonwealth Games India Scam 2000: The Commonwealth Games India Scam 2000 is a blot on India’s administration of sports. The likes of Suresh Kalmadi heading the organizing bodies were arrested for several scandals CBI and IP Department uncovered. Severely compromised infrastructure, east terrorist attack chances, messed up ticket sales and not up to the mark accommodation for the players were just some of the big disasters in the whole scam after thousands of crores of rupees were gobbled up by the politicians and officials.

  • Doping Scandals: Days before heading for the 2016 Olympics, the freestyle Indian Wrestler Narsingh Yadav tested positive for doping. In 2010, Sanmacha Chanu, a weightlifter, was tested positive for a restricted substance at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In 2008, the Kerala triple-jumper Renjith Maheshwary was suspended for three months after being tested positive for ephedrine. In 2000, Seema Punia, a discus thrower, was tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of the gold medal she won at a Chile event. All this shows that India is not a new player in the stream of doping and the Indian Players are ad nauseam caught for doping.

  • MK Kaushik Sex Scandal: Indian Women’s Team hockey coach MK Kaushik had succeeded in bowing the head of administration when he was arrested for asking players for sexual favours and involving in sexual relationships with those who wanted a place in the team.

  • Cricket Match Fixing (2000): It is probably the biggest match-fixing scandal that the cricketing world has ever seen where Mohd. Azharuddin and three other players were charged fines and handed life bans. Big names like Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar also came out for having links with bookies during the 2000 Test series against South Africa.

  • Age Frauds: Manipulation of date of birth by athletes to qualify in junior competitions is the bane of Indian Sports. This practice has been thriving because of the smugness of sports governing bodies. Whether it is Gourav Mukhi during the 2018 Super League Season or cricketer Major Kalra, the man of the match of the 2019 U-19 World Cup-winning team, the instances of age frauds remain unabated.


Sports Legislations in India


Though there is no national or state legislation for the regulation of sports in India, the sports law in India is regulated by and governed by the following:


National Sports Policy, 2001: After the reformulation of the National Sports Policy 1984, National Sports Policy, 2001 came into force with the following three-fold objectives:

  • To define the areas of conscientiousness of the various agencies involved in the development and promotion of sports.

  • To state the conditions of eligibility which the government will insist upon while releasing grants to Sports Federations.

  • To set priorities, identify National Sports Federations eligible for coverage and detail the procedure to be followed by the federations to avail of the assistance and Government sponsorship.

Sports Law and Welfare Association of India: It is a national non-profit and professional organization whose goal is to understand and improve existing laws relating to sports and ensure that these laws run smoothly. The affiliation gives consultancy on various issues, including general game and law issues, sports administration guidelines, licensed innovation issues in sports, etc. This association aims to create a forum for all lawyers representing teams, athletes, leagues, conferences, educational and recreational institutions that will help set rules to ensure that ethics are involved in sports.


Sports Authority of India: It is the pinnacle body established in 1984 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to coordinate various sports activities in India. The Sports Authority of India operates various schemes at sub-junior, junior and state levels to develop excellence by upgrading the skills of Indian sportspersons and has extended its operations to promote broad-based sports.


Sports Broadcasting Law: The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007 was passed to provide access to the largest number of viewers and listeners, on a free-to-air basis, of those sporting events that have national importance. The act forbids any content owner or holder radio or television broadcasting service provider to carry a live television broadcast on any direction to a home network, cable, or radio unless it continuously shares broadcasting signals.


Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports: This ministry lays down the eligibility conditions for various National Sports Federations to get grants and recognition to endorse sports events. It carries out long-term development programs to achieve the goal of excellence and supervise the bodies that govern sports in India.


Need For Reforms in Sports Law in India


Even after government bodies’ constant support, the Sports Industry in India is not of much success. The instances of corruption, sexual harassment, betting, pre-fixing matches have become inexorable and are rather exacerbating. There are labour issues where owners and players have to negotiate the mandatory problems relating to wages, working hours and working conditions. The agents entrusted to conduct these businesses are not doing it properly. Moreover, the problem of performance-enhancing drugs needs to be paid attention to. Another reason for a proper sports law is to keep a check on government bodies and agents’ accountability and actions.


Deliberate misdeed highlighting a criminal demonstration of attack needs to be penalized. There are various other issues like the ill-treatment of the players who are not sports stars, the illegal termination of their contracts, exploitation based on working hours, denying them advanced training as meant for top players, which need to be dealt with on an urgent basis. The provision of greater sensitivity and legal support to women players and termination of services of administrators concerned who deny exclusionary policies and essential facilities that are intentional for a player and the after-retirement support for the players need to be paid attention to which can be done only be astringent and proper sports law.


Conclusion


The area of sports law is relatively novel in India. It is an area of study that is worthy of definition and in-depth academic practice. The mindset towards the sanctity of sports law needs reorientation and the old template must be tweaked to accommodate new realities. The coming of sports law will untangle the severity of the scandals and provide unprecedented opportunities to new talents. A fresh perspective, an independent authority and a comprehensive law is the need of the hour which will ramp up the true competitiveness among players and a sense of responsibility among administrators.


*The author is a law scholar from the Institute of Law, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra.


(The image used here is for representational purposes only)


References


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