Sport and Recreation Law


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Sports law refers to a specialized practice focused on legal issues pertaining to the sports industry. As with entertainment, arts, or hospitality law, sports law generally refers more to the target industry rather than a separate body of law, though there are a few unique legal issues only faced by professional sports leagues. Common sports law issues include labor law, contract issues, unfair competition and antitrust law, and torts.

Much of sports law is divided between amateur and professional sports. Amateur sports are often governed by collegiate athletic associations, like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA propagates various rules governing issues like ethical conduct, amateur eligibility, financial aid, recruiting, gender equity, championship events, and academic standards. Gender equality is one area of particular interest in amateur collegiate sports. While membership in the NCAA is voluntary, the NCAA has enforcement power and can introduce a series of punishments against both students athletes and member schools. These punishments even include the so-called “death penalty:” the full shut-down of a sporting activity at an offending college.

Unlike intercollegiate sports, international amateur sports are run by a variety of organizations, like the International Olympic Committee (IOC). International amateur sports can face many of the same legal issues as collegiate sports, and have had a recent spate of anti-doping issues. Often disputes between national sports organizations can become both a proxy for political issues and a flash point for international tensions.

Professional sports leagues, on the other hand, have their own unique set of legal issues. For example, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) acknowledged in 1967 that professional athletes have the right to form unions, or “players associations.” It is now common for these professional players associations to call for work strikes in order to apply pressure to owners, usually while negotiating salary standards for the league.

Doping has also become an issue for professional sports in recent years. Player drug violations may lead to suspensions and loss of salary. The issues even became so pointed in the early part of the 2000's that congressional hearings occurred to investigate the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports.

Of course, some of the most famous issues related to sports law have to do with contract negotiations. Players hire agents to represent them in negotiations of multimillion dollar player contracts, trades, promotional deals, etc. Cities negotiate for franchise rights to have a resident team. Stadiums have a stream of commercial contracts with vendors for food and merchandise. Media companies contract for broadcast rights. Obviously, there are many other types of contracts involved in sports law, as well.

In fact, there are a variety of legal matters routinely faced by members of the sports industry. In many ways, it is a general practice with a particular type of clients. The resources below will help provide additional information on sports law, and the “Law Firms” tab, above, will provide you with information about attorneys in your area that can help you with these kinds of legal matters.

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Sport and Recreation Law – US

  • ABA - Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries

    OUR MISSION is to educate lawyers in the legal principles and transactional aspects of entertainment and sports law; to provide a platform for the discussion of issues affecting these fields, and to foster excellence in the practice of law in these fields. The forum is governed by a seven-member governing committee. Because of the diverse subjects covered by the forum, the governing committee created the following divisions: Interactive Media and New Technologies; Literary Publishing; Litigation; Merchandising and Licensing; Motion Pictures, Television, Cable, and Radio; Music and Personal Appearances; Sports; Theater and Performing Arts; and Visual Arts.

  • Sports Accidents and Litigation

    Sports accidents occur during sports or exercise and affect both professional athletes and people trying to improve their health through physical activity. Some accidents involve active participants; others involve bystanders. Skiers and snowboarders are involved in about 7,500 collisions annually; even a baseball may strike a fan during a professional game. Sports accidents can cause injuries ranging from a temporary sprain to fatal head trauma. The injury could be permanent. The late actor Christopher Reeve's accident during an equestrian event left him paralyzed below the neck. Sports accident litigation focuses on areas such as fault. A skier could be responsible for injury to another. Liability could extend to coaches, medical professionals who treat injuries, sports insurance providers and owners of businesses such as golf courses.

  • Sports Law - Definition

    Sports law is an umbrella term used to describe the legal issues at work in the world of both amateur and professional sports. Sports law overlaps substantially with labor law, contract law, antitrust law, and tort law. Issues like defamation and privacy rights are also an integral aspect of sports law. The area of law was established as a separate and important entity only a few decades ago, coinciding with the rise of player-agents and increased media scrutiny of sports law topics.

  • Sports Law - Overview

    Sports Law encompasses a multitude areas of law brought together in unique ways. Issues such as antitrust, contracts, and torts are quite common. Sports Law can be roughly divided into the areas of amateur, professional, and international sports. The distinction between a professional and amateur athlete is somewhat tenuous. So-called "amateur" student/athletes at universities often receive scholarships and other forms of compensation. Also, keep in mind that even though an athlete may be defined as an amateur by one organization, he or she may not be an amateur according to another. Of course, this leads to even more confusion. A simplistic, yet useful definition is that amateur athletes participate in sports as an avocation while professional athletes are involved in sports as a vocation.

  • Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act

    The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, a federal law enacted in 1978 and named for a longtime U.S. Senator from Alaska, chartered the USOC and set specific requirements for its member national governing bodies for individual sports. According to the law, the USOC’s purpose is “to promote and support amateur athletic activities involving the United States and foreign nations.” The act was amended in 1998 to expand the USOC's role to include the Paralympic Games, and increase athlete representation.

  • Title IX and Intercollegiate Athletics

    Intercollegiate athletics policy interpretation; provides more specific factors to be reviewed by OCR under program factors listed at Section 106.41 Of the Title IX regulation; explains OCR's approach to determining compliance in inter-collegiate athletics; adds two program factors, recruitment and support services to be reviewed; clarifies requirement for athletic scholarships - 34 C.F.R. Section 106.37(C). The document contains dated references, and footnote 6 is out of date; however, the policy is still current.

  • US Department of State - Sports United

    SportsUnited is an international sports programming initiative designed to help start a dialogue at the grassroots level with non-elite boys and girls ages 7-17. The programs aid youth in discovering how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom. Foreign participants are given an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and exposure to American life and culture. Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from overseas face today.

  • US Immigration - P-1 Athletes Visa

    The P-1 (Individual or team athletes) visa is suitable for individual or team athletes that have gained international recognition and seeking to enter the United States to compete in a competitive sporting event. This also includes promotional appearances and can be valid for an entire season. Individual athletes may be admitted for up to 5 years initially. One extension of up to 5 years is allowed. There are no travel restrictions on a P-1 visa, allowing the athlete to enter and leave the country as they please.

  • US Sports Lawyers Association (SLA)

    The Sports Lawyers Association (SLA) is a non-profit, international, professional organization whose common goal is the understanding, advancement and ethical practice of sports law. There are over 1,000 current members: practicing lawyers, law educators, law students, and other professionals with an interest in law relating to professional and amateur sports.

  • USGS Recreation - Federal Laws and Regulations

    Welcome to the USGS Recreation Site: Your Earth Science Gateway for a safer and more enjoyable experience of the outdoors.

Sport and Recreation Law - Europe

  • European Sport Charter

    The European Sport Charter provides guidance for the Council of Europe’s member states to perfect existing legislations or other policies and to develop a comprehensive framework for sport.

  • Sport Council of Europe

    The Council is aware that sport has a distinctive role to play as a force for social integration, tolerance and understanding. It is open to all, regardless of age, language, religion, culture, or ability. It is the single most popular activity in modern society. Sport provides the opportunity to learn to play by commonly agreed rules, to behave admirably both in victory and in defeat and to develop, not only the physical being, but also social competences and ethical values. Its contribution to education is increasingly acknowledged. Sport has a key contribution to bring to the promotion of the core values of the Council of Europe : democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Council of Europe acts against the negative aspects of sport - in particular violence and doping - through two Conventions : the European Convention on Spectator Violence and the Anti-Doping Convention.

  • United Kingdom Code of Ethics and Conduct for Sports Coaches

    Sports coaches are expected to conform to ethical standards in a number of areas: humanity, relationships, commitment, co-operation, integrity, advertising, confidentiality, abuse of privilege, safety and competence.

Sport and Recreation Law - International

  • Australian Sports Commission (ASC)

    The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is a statutory authority of the Australian Government. The roles and responsibilities of the ASC are laid out in the Australian Sports Commission Act 1989. The ASC is governed by a board of commissioners appointed by the Australian Government. The board determines the ASC’s overall direction, decides on actual allocation of resources and policy for delegated decisions, and is accountable to the Minister for Sport and to Parliament.

  • Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is an institution independent of any sports organization which provides for servic­es in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation by means of procedural rules adapted to the­ specific needs of the sports world. The CAS was created in 1984 and is placed under the administrative and financial authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).

  • UNESCO - International Convention Against Doping in Sport

    The purpose of this Convention, within the framework of the strategy and programme of activities of UNESCO in the area of physical education and sport, is to promote the prevention of and the fight against doping in sport, with a view to its elimination.

  • United Nations Code of Sports Ethics

    The basic principle of the Code of Sports Ethics is that ethical considerations leading to fair play are integral, and not optional elements, of all sports activity, sports policy and management, and apply to all levels of ability and commitment, including recreational as well as competitive sport. The Code provides a sound ethical framework to combat the pressures in modern day society, which appear to be undermining the traditional foundations of sport - foundations built on fair play and sportsmanship, and on the voluntary movement.

Organizations Related to Sport and Recreation Law

  • British Association for Sports and Law (BASL)

    A professional association representing sport law practitioners, sports administrators and sports law academics and students.

  • Canadian Centre for Sport and Law

    The Centre for Sport and Law is a consulting company offering services and practical resources on governance, risk management and legal issues. The Centre provides consulting services and educational programs related to organizational governance, values management, risk assessment, mediation and arbitration, policy development, business and employment issues and change management. We are not a law firm - but we can help you with legal problems, and our multidisciplinary team can also help your organization find practical solutions to other organizational challenges you may experience.

  • Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

    The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 208 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football. FIFA employs some 310 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and committees (assisting the Executive Committee).

  • International Association of Sports Law (IASL)

    IASL is an international scientific association founded at 1992. The objective of IASL is the cultivation and the development of the Science, the research and the teaching of Sports Law and the institution of the Olympic Games. IASL members may be natural and/or legal persons actively participating in the research, teaching and practical application of Sports Law as well as the institution of the Olympic Games.

  • International Olympic Committee (IOC)

    Acting as a catalyst for collaboration between all members of the Olympic Family, from the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the International Sports Federations (IFs), the athletes, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs), to the TOP partners, broadcast partners and agencies from the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shepherds success through a wide range of programmes and projects which bring the Olympic values to life.

  • International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

    The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine (9) sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions.

  • International Sport Lawyers Association (ISLA)

    The International Sport Lawyers Association - ISLA - is a worldwide association of international, mainly European based sports lawyers that was established under the laws of Switzerland. The legal environment in professional and non-professional sports is expanding constantly.

  • Major League Baseball - Official Rules

    This code of rules governs the playing of baseball games by professional teams of Major League Baseball and the leagues that are members of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. We recognize that many amateur and non-professional organizations play their games under professional rules and we are happy to make our rules available as widely as possible. It is well to remember that specifications as to fields, equipment, etc., may be modified to meet the needs of each group.

  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a voluntary organization through which the nation's colleges and universities govern their athletics programs. It is comprised of institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals committed to the best interests, education and athletics participation of student-athletes. This section of the Web site contains more details about the Association, its goals and members, and corporate partnerships that help support programs for student-athletes.

  • National Football League - Rulebook

    This Digest of Rules of the National Football League has been prepared to aid players, fans, and members of the press, radio, and television media in their understanding of the game.

  • Official National Hockey League (NHL) Rulebook

    While the National Hockey League (NHL) follows the general rules of ice hockey, it differs slightly from those used in international games organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation such as the Olympics.

  • Official Rules of the National Basketball Association (NBA)

    Each official should have a definite and clear conception of his overall responsibility to include the intent and purpose of each rule. If all officials possess the same conception there will be a guaranteed uniformity in the administration of all contests.

  • Sport and Recreation Law Association (SRLA)

    The Sport and Recreation Law Association is a nonprofit corporation. Our purpose is to further the study and dissemination of information regarding legal aspects of sport and recreation. The Association addresses legal aspects of sport and recreation within both the public and private sectors.

  • United States Olympic Committee (USOC)

    USOC Mission Statement: To support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes in achieving sustained competitive excellence and preserve the Olympic ideals, and thereby inspire all Americans.

  • US Amateur Athletic Union

    The AAU, being established to promote the benefits of participation in athletics and sports-related activities, hereby adopts this Constitution and Bylaws for the advancement of that purpose.

  • Women's Sports Foundation

    Mission: To advance the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.

  • World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

    The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the international independent organization created in 1999 to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all its forms. Composed and funded equally by the sports movement and governments of the world, WADA coordinated the development and implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.

Publications Related to Sport and Recreation Law

  • Entertainment and Sports Law Journal (ESLJ)

    The Entertainment and Sports Law Journal (ESLJ) is a refereed online journal. It is located within a dynamic and rapidly expanding area of legal theory and legal practice. Whilst focused within legal study, the areas it encompasses are necessarily interdisciplinary. Entertainment Law, Media Law, Sports Law, Licensing Law – these are all subjects that are taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level at increasing numbers of Law Schools in the UK and beyond.

  • Marquette University Sports Law Review

    Marquette Sports Law Review - (formerly the Marquette Sports Law Journal) a national bi-annual scholarly review addressing issues in sports law.

  • The Sports Lawyer Journal

    The Sports Lawyers Journal is published annually and is edited by the students of Tulane University School of Law.

  • US Sports Law Blog

    All things legal relating to the sports world...

Articles on HG.org Related to Sport and Recreation Law

  • Rhode Island Car Accidents and Ride Sharing
    Consumers should be aware of the rising popularity of ride sharing companies and their potential effect on insurance coverage after a car accident.
  • Rhode Island Personal Injury Law: Rear-End Auto Accident Collisions
    In our Rhode Island personal injury practice, we routinely handle auto accidents, including what is commonly referred to as “rear end collisions.” Rear-end collisions occur when the front end of one vehicle hits the back end of the vehicle in front.
  • Is Drone Hunting Going to be Legal in the United States?
    After reports of domestic spying surfaced, and the possibility that drone aircraft might be used to carry out surveillance of Americans, many reacted violently. This led to what was initially considered an absurd suggestion that “drone hunting” should be legalized. However, several jurisdictions have actually made movement in the direction of issuing permits to shoot surveillance aircraft out of the sky.
  • Did You Know There Are Laws Against Dancing?
    Prom, homecoming, and other formal dances are rites of passage for millions of American youth. So, it is perhaps surprising to many that such an activity may be regulated by the law, but in many jurisdictions it is. And, we are not talking about exotic or belly or other suggestive types of dancing. These laws apply to any kind of dancing, including the stuff your grandparents were doing. So, what are some of the more unusual laws against dancing?
  • MTA Cracks Down on Bus Driver Violations, but Some Slip through the Cracks
    New York City MTA bus crashes have increased recently due to an influx of new, inexperienced bus drivers. The inexperienced drivers have increased the risk to passengers, pedestrians and motorists.
  • Are Self-Driving Cars Legal?
    Recently, there have been a number of stories in the news about the development of autonomous automobiles, or self-driving cars. In fact, a number of states have taken interest in this technology and have passed legislation approving the deployment of self-driving vehicles to their roads. So what are these laws? What do they allow or prohibit? Which states currently authorize self-driving vehicles?
  • Hit By a Company Car: Drivers Fault or Employers?
    Law of negligence determines who is responsible for a car accident. Sometimes it is clear, sometimes it is shared and in some instances it can be complicated if one of the drivers is utilizing a company owned vehicle.
  • Is It Legal to Hitchhike?
    For many years, people have relied upon the kindness of strangers to get where they needed to go by hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is the practice of soliciting rides in road vehicles, usually from strangers. It dates back to the time of the Great Depression, but concerns over safety for both passenger and driver have led to the implementation of a number of laws pertaining to hitchhiking. So, is it legal to hitchhike?
  • Sports Injury Laws
    Whenever one engages in sports, there is always an inherent risk of injury. Most athletes accept this risk as part of the game. Most injuries are accidental and relatively minor, like sprains, twists, and the occasional bone break. But what happens if an injury occurs as a result of a deliberate hit or someone acts so recklessly that injury is almost certain to occur?
  • Lack Of Complete Diversity Of Citizenship Of Members Of Equine LLCs Requires Dismissal Of Federal Action
    The issue of diversity of citizenship is of particular interest to equine ownership and contract disputes, because many equine-related entities are organized as limited liability companies (LLCs). The citizenship of LLCs is subject to a different rule than the citizenship of corporations, a distinction that may escape the attention of attorneys.
  • All Leisure Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Leisure including: art and cultural property, entertainment law, gaming, hospitality law, sports and recreation, tourism and travel.


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