Legal Disputes in Sport

Legal disputes in the world of sport are generally regulated by specific bodies and organizations. But what sorts of legal conflicts can arise and how are they resolved?
Legal Disputes in Sport

Last update: 26 June, 2020

Legal disputes in sport have always generated a certain amount of controversy. This is because they’re normally handled by separate governing bodies or legal entities. The disparity in the way they’re resolved can create distrust.

For a layman without much legal knowledge, it might seem strange that legal disputes in sport would be handled differently to any other legal matter.

There’s also a perception that some athletes seem to enjoy certain privileges when compared to ordinary citizens. People feel that they aren’t always held accountable for their actions to the same extent.

And, if to this we add the media circus that forms around sporting disputes, it’s not difficult to see why many people simply don’t understand the way some legal matters are handled. In other parts of daily life, there’s much greater transparency.

So, with all this in mind, we’re going to take a look at the types of legal disputes that can arise.

Sports law and sports lawyers

As the name suggests, sports law deals with any matter that is directly or indirectly involved in sport.

Although there have always been legal disputes in sport and specialist lawyers to address them. The concept of a specialized branch of law is relatively new.

When we say ‘directly or indirectly involved in sport’, this means that we’re not just talking about athletes, coaches, or sporting organizations.

A man working at a desk.

This branch of the law also deals with cases involving companies, organizations, and brands that have some stake in a particular sport.

It also plays an important role in the organization of events and competitions, and there’s a particular focus on sponsorship deals with athletes, clubs, and national teams.

Sports lawyers will also get involved in employment contracts for artists involved in sporting advertisements, campaigns, or events.

And lastly, athletes often have to worry about factors such as image rights, retransmission rights, or sick leave. So, to deal with all of this, they need a specialist sports lawyer.

As you can see, professionals who specialize in sports law need broad expertise to cover a range of matters. But as individuals, they may choose to specialize in specific issues, such as legal disputes or contract negotiations.

As a result, sporting governing bodies do far more than just issue sanctions. They’re also responsible for regulating a wide range of legal matters within their sport.

Different areas of sports law

With so much complexity, there are obviously many different types of legal disputes in a sport that can potentially arise.

To reflect this, whilst sports law is a branch of general legislation, there are also sub-branches that correspond to the various different types of disputes. These include:

  • Administrative law: this concerns doping and disciplinary cases.
  • Civil jurisdiction: this includes claims for sporting accidents and challenges to agreements.
A judge banging their gavel to resolve legal disputes in sport.
  • Constitutional law: this focuses mainly on the protection of image rights and other fundamental rights of athletes.
  • Labor law: this concerns contract disputes between athletes and clubs, organizations, or companies related to sport.
  • Commercial law: this is fundamentally related to sporting corporations.
  • Tax law: this focuses specifically on the tax arrangements for a particular sport or sporting organization.

Legal disputes can arise in any one of these fields and sometimes more than one at the same time. As a result, lawyers who specialize in these matters are becoming more and more common, and the processes to resolve legal disputes are ever more complex.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.