Sports Law

Updated September 12, 2023
6 min read
Sports Law: pen, paper, basketball court, balls, football pitch

Some people view sports as an elaborate form of play with too many rules. While professional and amateur athletes alike do enjoy sports, the rules at play spread far beyond the rules of the game. Sports law is a collection of laws that was designed to keep athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, teams, and leagues safe, and encourage all parties to play fair. Sports law covers everything from contracts to criminal acts.

What Is Sports Law?

Sports law refers to all laws and regulations designed to govern professional and amateur sports. Athletes, coaches, trainers, and managers in the field of sports refer to sports law often, in regards to both amateur and professional sports. These laws make sure sports competitions are fair, athletes don’t train too many hours in a week, and professionals get paid in full for their work. One of the main goals of sports law is to protect all the parties involved, including athletes, leagues, clubs, and more. 

Areas of Sports Law

Learning about the different areas of sports law is the best way to see how inclusive it is. Here are some common types of sports law:

Contract Law

Contract law is a prime example of the importance of sports law for professional athletes. Professional athletes are employed by sports teams using contracts. For especially successful athletes, millions of dollars can be on the line. That’s where sports lawyers and sports law firms come in. Athletes may hire sports lawyers to help them negotiate their terms. Athletes always get the spotlight, but it’s important to remember all the other people who need contracts, such as trainers, coaches, and managers.

Personal Injury Law

Many athletes are forced to retire early because of work-related injuries. Personal injury law serves to protect athletes, teams, venues, and other individuals and businesses. For example, if an athlete gets injured as a result of vigorous training, they can raise a claim against their team or club. If their injury is a result of negligence of the sports venue, they can sue the venue. Working with sports lawyers is the best way to get what you’re entitled to.

Trademark Law

Sports teams are businesses. Their goal is to turn every game into profit. There are only so many championships you can attend, so there must be other ways to capitalize on sports. Most teams, clubs, and event venues rely heavily on the sale of merchandise. That’s why trademark infringement is a big issue in sports law. Sports law firms focus on enforcing the trademarks of their clients.

Athletic Administration in Sports Law

Athletic administration facilitates safety in the field of sports. Running a college athletic program is no easy task. The organization has to comply with federal rules and regulations for athletic programs and athletes. Those rules concern schedules, the frequency of training, and the use of banned substances such as steroids, among other safety measures.

Employment Law

Sports clubs and teams are not only for-profit organizations, they are also official employers who use their employees to make money. All sports law firms will tell you that with becoming an employer comes great responsibility. As an employer, you have to follow employment law. That involves big and small procedures like writing contracts, paying your workers, taking care of health insurance, handling taxes, and more. 

Personal Property Law

Personal property law in sports law usually concerns sports memorabilia. With objects like sports jerseys and championship rings being auctioned off for thousands of dollars, the question of ownership can be a pressing one. Sports lawyers handle disputes between athletes and sports teams when it comes to personal property ownership.  

Competition Law

In talking about sports law, competition law is usually applied to the economic activities in the field of sports. The sports sector is a big contributor to economic growth in the EU, UK,, and USA. It is important to ensure players in the sector have equal opportunities to thrive. It is the job of the federal government to encourage competition and discourage anti-competitive practices. 

Sports and Human Rights

Though it may not seem so, there is a strong link connecting sports and human rights. Several laws outside of sports law support people’s right to play sports. For instance, a person's access to physical education was named a fundamental right by the International Charter of Physical Education and Sport in 1978. According to the Geneva Conventions, even prisoners of war are entitled to physical exercise. Everyone should have the right to play and have access to physical exercise. 

The benefits of sports for people of all ages are undeniable. Many communities all over the world find a way to introduce sports and play into the everyday lives of their children. This serves not only as a means of improving their physical health, but also as a way to keep them safe from negative influences such as drugs and alcohol.

Arbitrating Sports Disputes

Dispute arbitration refers to an alternative way to solve disputes, which is especially popular in sports law. The case is given to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, where one or more arbitrators look for a solution. Just like in the court of law, the final decision is binding and has to be enforced. 

Sports law continues to grow and change

Because of the ever-changing nature of sports law, sports arbitration is often the preferred dispute resolution method. The process is faster and less expensive. Sports arbitrators are also more experienced in resolving sports disputes than other legal professionals. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), established in 1954, has standardized the process of arbitrating sports disputes. 

Who practices sports law?

There are sports law firms with specially talented sports lawyers who specialize in sports arbitration. Attorneys may handle conflicts between athletes and sports teams or other organizations. Sports lawyers represent these parties and help with conflict resolution.

Final Comments

The topic of sports law concerns a large number of individuals, starting with athletes and coaches, and ending with sports lawyers and venue managers. This set of laws affects both Olympic athletes and young amateur players alike. With regard to the aforementioned laws, all affected parties can remain safe and protected.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a sports lawyer do?

Sports lawyers represent clients such as coaches, teams, and athletes in legal disputes. A sports lawyer is just like a regular lawyer, except they work exclusively with clients in the field of sports. They may also practice as agents and help athletes and sports teams negotiate terms of contracts. A sports lawyer can be employed by individuals as well as businesses.

What is the role of a contract in sports law?

A contract is a vital part of any transaction. It facilitates an exchange of money and services between two parties. Without one, neither party can be sure that they will get what they expect from the deal. In sports law, contracts serve to protect both parties from fraud, scams, and misinformation. Most agreements are signed between athletes and sports teams, clubs, or leagues.

What is the court of arbitration for sport?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, also known as CAS, is an alternative to regular conflict resolution we’re used to seeing in the court of law. Arbitrators resolve disputes in the field of sports and provide solutions that are legal and enforceable.

What kinds of disputes can be submitted to the CAS?

The CAS will accept any dispute related to sports law. That can be anything from contract and employment laws to criminal and injury laws. Disputes are often submitted by athletes, sports clubs, sports teams,coaches, or a party’s legal representatives.