Australian Sports Law Fair Play Sports Law Essay

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Australian Sports Law


Sports Law in Australia

The dictionary defines sports as a physical activity governed by rules or customs and which is often engaged in for competition. Every civilized activity has its ground rules and so does sports. The laws and legal systems of a particular country do not infringe on the rules of a given game or sport (In Brief, 2011). The country's international governing body of the game or sport establishes and regulates laws for use in the game or sport. This governing body also decides on changes of the rules and details, such as the movement of players and disciplinary sanctions. One such body is the Federation International de Football Association or FIFA, which governs English football. Under it are other organizations, namely UEFA for European Football, the Football Association for England, and regional football associations and clubs in England, both amateur and professional (In Brief).

Government Involvement

Although sport is a separate institution from the government in the UK, certain government bodies are involved in sports within England and Wales (In Brief, 2011). The Department of Culture, Media and Sport coordinate with UK Sport and Sport England in determining and enforcing policies on sports in UK and England. These cover national curriculum physical education requirements, sports policy and the distribution of national lottery funding. They are, however, not involved in the decision-making function of the governing bodies on sports. The Council of Europe is a European Union body, which developed the European Sports Charter, which in turn developed one of the fundamental policies of Sport for All. This Charter lists the responsibilities to be followed by European Union member states in achieving the goals of "Sport for All" throughout the European Union. The law gets involved in sports often in decisions on laws, which affect the rights of participants, commercial decisions covering the particular sport, and the safety of the audience (In Brief).

Rights of Participants

The decision of the European Court of Justice in the Bosman case determined that rules on the rights of participants, specifically homegrown players, were arbitrary and insufficient as compared with those guaranteed for all citizens (In Brief, 2011). The law intervenes in cases when these rights are violated by acts in the conduct of a game or sports are considered illegal. Examples are criminal or negligent acts within the sport or game (In Brief).

Commercial Decisions

Some of these may not relate to the laws of the game but constitute as agreements between commercial entities (In Brief, 2011). An example is the selling of television rights to sports competitions (In Brief).

Safety of the Audience

England and Wales established laws to guarantee the safety of spectators (In Brief, 2011). These laws cover football banning orders. The European Union also instituted laws under the European Convention on Spectator Violence. Other laws cover the maintenance of the stadiums for the protection of spectators (In Brief).

Risk of Injury

Most participants in a game or sport accept this risk as part of the activity (Rollingson, 2011). Sports injuries are often relatively minor and do not cause much trouble when recovery from the injury is full. There is not much fuss over who is to blame. But when the injury is large enough to create adverse effects on the injured participant's career or hobby, those responsible become the focus. They may be another participant, the referee, spectators, the governing body, the local authority, the school, the organizer of the activity or the manufacturer or supplier of sporting goods. Claims for sporting injuries have been growing. Awareness of legal rights on these claims and injuries has also been increasing. This is why sports law has become a subject of interest and concern recently (Rollingson).

Court of Arbitration for Sports

This was established in 1984 and became the central forum of international sports disputes (Scott, 2003). It is charged with the task of resolving legal disputes in sports through arbitral awards. The International Council of Arbitration administers this court. The dispute is settled in a similar way as a court verdict. There are more than 240 arbitrators carrying this function out for the CAS. They are selected for their knowledge and expertise in arbitration and sports law. Disputes directly or indirectly related to sports may be filed with this court for trial. This court heard 32 disputes during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, 21 of which involved athlete selection and 6 to doping (Scott).

Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill of 2004

This Bill amended section 115 of the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992 or the Broadcasting Act (Donaldson, 2004). It aims at increasing the time when a sports event, which is protected by the anti-siphoning scheme, becomes available to pay-TV operators. At present, a listed event is automatically de-listed 1,008 hours or six weeks before a sports event. This Bill aims at increasing this to 2,016 hours or 12 weeks (Donaldson).

The Anti-Siphoning Scheme

Section 115 of the Broadcasting Act provides for this scheme (Donaldson, 2004). The scheme protects the access of Australian audiences to events of national and cultural significance on free-to-air-television. It does this by preventing pay-TV operators from siphoning off television coverage of such events before free-to-air broadcasters could obtain broadcasting rights to the events. ABC, SBS, and commercial TV broadcasting licensees are examples of free-to-air TV providers. The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Arts specifies which event or events are available for free to the general viewing public. He may also amend the information. This list of events is informally known as the anti-siphoning list. The first notice of events was revised and replaced on May 11, 2004 with an anti-siphoning list. This revision was valid until December 31, 2005. It specified sports events in horse racing, Australian Rules football, rugby league football, rugby union football, cricket, soccer, tennis, netball, basketball, golf and motor sports (Donaldson).


Less than one out of four households has access to subscription TV. This has been the rationale and the ground for the validity of the anti-siphoning scheme (Donaldson, 2004). The government, however, found the need to update this rationale on account of the changing attitudes of Australians and realities in the sporting and broadcasting sectors. The minister stated the government's position during the 2004 annual conference of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association He said that he recognized the importance of free-to-air TV and watching a games finals or match as having free access to Australian drama or daily news bulletin (Donaldson).

Viewpoints by Interest Groups

The Commercial Television Australia or CTVA welcomed the government's decision to revise the anti-siphoning list (Donaldson, 2004). CTVA is the major industry body, which represents free-to-air commercial broadcasters. Statistics say that 78% of households will not pay for sport on television. Sporting events were among the top 20 most-viewed TV programs in Australia. The government's decision to revise was, therefore, in recognition of the importance that sport on free-to-air television on the lives of the majority of Australian households. Pay-TV operators, on the other hand, expressed disappointment over the government's failure to adopt a "use-it-or-lose-it" approach. Speaking through the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, they said that the approach would have maximized live coverage of sport events. The government's extension of the de-listing did not address fundamental problems with the use of the scheme. The revised list still includes events, which were never covered by the free-to-air television networks. These events should not remain in the new list (Donaldson).

Contravening Constitutional Law

Commercial forces in both Australia and the U.S. are pushing for more sports telecasts on pay TV (Perrine, 2001). Both governments acquiesced to public demand to preserve professional sports league competitions on free-to-air TV by passing anti-siphoning laws. These laws have been found to be detrimental to professional sports leagues by obstructing their freedom of expression. At the same time, these laws reduce revenues from transmission rights. Constitutional law guarantees effective means for professional sports leagues to challenge anti-siphoning laws. The First Amendment protects American sports leagues and serves as basis for challenging these laws. In Australia, professional sports leagues may not be able to challenge the constitutionality of the laws. They may, however, invoke "just cause" to recover losses from the enforcement of anti-siphoning laws (Perrine).

Flawed Philosophy?

At the moment, emotional and political forcers hold sway in enforcing anti-siphoning laws (Sutton, 1994). Reason and logic do not have a place as yet and advocates of pay TV must accept this reality for now. It may be of comfort to consider that, while anti-siphoning laws are enforceable for only 10 years, technology and commercial realities may eliminate them earlier. This high probability points to their being flawed. Political expediency is a stronger force as politicians will always sponsor moves for social equity in order to keep people happy and contented. But pay TV will not necessarily gain very much except in live sports. Those businesses buying and selling sporting rights are the likeliest to gain the most. Their influence is greatest at…[continue]

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