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Being a Sports Lawyer in India

As young budding lawyers, generally when asked about sports law, we have no clue about it. What is sports law? Is there any special Act dedicated to this field of law? If not, then which Acts are usually referred? Most of us would be as perplexed and confused as a non-law student would be.

Sports law in simple words is an umbrella term describing the legal issues related to sports. With regards to this specific area of law, a lot of questions may arise; the First, among those would be, is recognising and playing a sport for a reasonably long time enough to qualify as a sports lawyer? The answer to that is a NO! To become a sports lawyer, one should have keen interest in the administration and management of sporting activity. Moreover, it is required to substantiate such knowledge and to have great proficiency in law applicable to commercial activities. One should have expertise in law related to Contract, Media, Competition, Drafting and Negotiation. The study of the legislations controlling sporting activities and its structure of management in India would prepare one to take up sports law as a career in India.

Sports law is not a lawyer friendly term for many practitioners in India as it creates confusion in the minds of most of them. Confusions as to, what is the ambit of sports law? What would one do being a sports lawyer? Is there any work in this field that requires the attention of lawyers? The reason to all these questions and many more lies in the confusion caused between the functions of an administrator and a lawyer. In this field of law, there seems to be an intrinsic overlap of functions between these two service providers. Therefore,to establish as a sports lawyer in India is extremely tough. It might be astonishing to many that in a country like India with 1.2-billion population (approx.) the one and only name or face of the country successfully practicing sports law is Mr. Nandan Kamath. It also cannot be disregarded by the fact that the amount of support and participation GoSports Foundation gains exhibits that there is a keen interest among the young legal enthusiast to pursue a career in the legal side of sports. Few other Sports firms/companies where the legal front seems to be an important focus are: GameChange, GameChanger[1], which has its offices in Delhi and Bangalore in India; LAWNK in Bangaloreand TMT Law Practice[2] (Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi) which has Sports and Entertainment litigation listed as its area of practice. But, due to lack of substantial avenues and necessary spread of awareness amongst law students and young lawyers Sports Lawyering hasn’t emerged as a career option.

Another interesting thing to note is that the new generation Law schools have Law companies/firms coming down to their doorsteps to offer jobs to the graduating batch of students. The day for such on-campus-recruitment is colloquially called “Day Zero”. Of course not all potential recruiters make it on that one day; but the point being, that Sports Law firms don’t somehow feature in these list of firms visiting the law schools.

However in Europe or Australia, Sports lawyering is a big thing. People understand the importance of legal nuances in sports and provide for all the facilities possible to explore this area.

In India, when a sports lawyer tries to make his/hermark in this field, he is required to immensely engage in the field of administration. Apart from taking care of any future legal dispute, he is expected to carry out the work of agents, wherein he does managerial work of maintaining the player’s portfolio, advertisement, sponsorship, etc. As a consequence of this conflict of lack of definite identity in the kingdom of law, it becomes complicated for legal practitioners to establish themselves as a sports lawyer. What some of the existing sports administrators in fields like Tennis Officiating usually do before joining the professional turf is fetch themselves a Diploma Post Graduation Degree in Sports Management. There are a few institutes that offer these courses; and  Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management which has been offering this course since 2010-2011 is one such institute operating in Kolkata. But, it isn’t quite clear if sports lawyer enthusiasts should get such a Diploma degree or not if they are to make more sense out of their work in managing legal disputes relating to Sports or would a legal degree in Law suffice.

The ambiguity of their role and the overlap of functions create an uncertainty among the clients of their existence. Therefore, the first and the foremost challenge of a sport lawyer in India, is to justify their existence, not just their existence in the field per say but also the existence of the field itself.

Going back to law schools; majority of the law students discover their area of interest while they study law. In addition, they work towards enhancing their knowledge in the field of their interest throughout law school period. In this exercise, law schools aid the students substantially by providing elective choice of subject, having conferences and having various research centers working on different fields of law. However, it is witnessed that in terms of sports law there is a gap, which stays unfilled. Most of the law students who graduate from law school do so without gaining even the basic idea of what a sports lawyer does. Unexpectedly, the foundational knowledge of the legislation governing sports law in India is unheard of by many. Such a lacuna suppresses the interest of the few who might be interest in taking up Sports Law as profession. Two main reasons due to which interested law students get discouraged to pursue this field of law; firstly, the lack of adequate teaching mechanism and secondly, lack of exposure between the students and the existing lawyers in the field of sports law.

 Problems or the negative side of sporting activity is well witnessed in IPL fiasco, the CWG catastrophe and the weight-lifting shame etc. -. Many questions have been raised by the critiques but unfortunately most of these questions have remained unanswered; since no one looks into the reasons for the same. A questions lead to more questions and the blame game goes on. The root of the matter stays unaddressed – Indian sports lacks good governance and a dynamic regulatory framework. Enlightenment of such matters is of utmost importance and to become a sports lawyer especially in a country like India.

Being a Sports lawyer in India is much different from being one  in Australia. Unlike India, in Australia there is national Act i.e. Australian Sports Commission Act, 1989. It was enacted to establish the Australian Sports Commission (“ASC”). It is a statutory authority of the Australian Government that is governed by the board of Commissioners appointed by the Minister for Sports.  It is responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in Australia. The “ASC’s roles and responsibility are prescribed in the Australian Sports Commission Act, 1989. It is also involved in the implementation of major policy decision principally through three divisions, the Australian Institute of Sports, Community Sport and Sport Performance and Development. For the efficiency of the implementation of these policy decisions it works closely with a range of sporting organisations, state and local governments, schools and community organisations. This ensures that sports in the country is run well and is accessible to all. Therefore, there is recognition of this field more than in India and that makes it much simpler for one to establish themselves in this field of law there, than here.Hence, there is an imminent need that we strive to create awareness along with educational facilities to understand Sports Advocacy better.



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