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Sports Law and Court of Arbitration for Sports in India

By Anusha Bhatt

Picture Credits: Unsplash


Sports activities have been an essential part of our social culture since the time immemorial. In the ancient historic cultures, sports activities were performed to determine the strongest amongst the group. It was a form of power and pride that was bestowed upon the winner. Over the years, hundreds of rulers have enjoyed sporting activities for entertainment purposes as well. However, a lot has been lost amidst the change between the historic lineage and the current scenario of sports and other recreational activities. In today’s India, schools prefer to pressurize children with academics and little importance is being given to sports activities. It is deeply saddening to witness the declining culture of sports in India at the grass-root level.

As a result of the decline, India has been performing miserably in sports, especially at international events like Olympics. Apart from cricket, our country has failed to provide proper attention towards other sports activities and events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, etc. The lack of facilities and amenities have been one of the major reasons for the downfall of sports culture in our country and strong legislation is required to rectify the same. Sports law is a fundamental requirement of our society which is fuelled by the commercialization and growth of the sports culture. It further aims at increasing the economic, political and social aspect of the sports sector and simultaneously moving towards a positive change as well.

Sports Law in India

The Government of India has set up the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to monitor and regulate sports activities in India. The primary objective of the Ministry is to develop sports infrastructure including proper amenities and to promote the advancement of sports in national as well as international events. As per the Indian Constitution, Entry 33 of the State List (given under Schedule VII), mentions that only the State Government has jurisdiction to govern matters about sports. However, matters relating to national and international events fall under the purview of the Union Government due to their obligation under the international treaties. Further, the Supreme Court and various High Courts have held that sports governing bodies like Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Athletic Federation of India are self-governing in nature and hence, do not come under the definition of State under Article 12 of the Constitution. However, the sports federation comes within the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution as they perform state-like functions concerning sports activities. The Sports law in India is governed by the following organizations:

National Sports Policy, 1984

In August 1984, the National Sports Policy was formulated to enhance the quality of sports in India. The aim was to inculcate the importance of sports in children, integrating recreational activities with education, training and development of coaches and efficient sports centres and the overall development of the National Sports Federation in India. However, the 1984 policy could not be implemented properly which paved the path for the formation of National Sports Policy, 2001.

National Sports Policy, 2001

With similar objectives as the 1984 Policy, the new sports policy laid down certain guidelines as well. The 2001 Policy empowered the National Sports Federation to avail financial assistance from the Government for adequate development and promotion of sports. Under the new policy, the Government as well as the Sports Authority of India are expected to devote their utmost attention towards achieving excellence at the National and International Sports events. The policy further aims at including sports under the Concurrent List of the Constitution which will enable the State as well as the Union Government to institute appropriate legislation for inter-state and intra-state jurisdiction.

Sports Authority of India (SAI)

The Government of India instituted the Sports Authority of India on 16th March 1984 to look after the sports infrastructure created for the 9th Asian Games. The Asian Games held at Delhi motivated the Government to encourage physical fitness and sports development amongst the youth of the country. The Sports Authority of India operates at different levels like sub-junior, junior and senior-level to develop excellence and upgrade the skills of the sportsperson in India. Over the years, SAI has incorporated various scholarship programmes like Academic Programmes, Physical Education Awareness Programmes, ect

Sports Law and Welfare Association of India

A non-profit organization that aims at attaining a common goal of advancement and promotion of Sports Law in India by bringing law practitioners and sports persons together. The Sports Law and Welfare Association of India provides consultancy on various legal matters primarily including the regulation of sports governing bodies in India. The Association aims at staging the discussion about legal matters and providing an appropriate forum to sportspersons for resolving legal disputes.

Sports Law and Arbitration

The process of arbitration has facilitated parties involved in a legal dispute to discover an alternative to the litigation process. Many sports organizations and sports persons find litigation as a tedious and expensive process, and as a result, the sports community has adapted to the process of arbitration to settle their disputes quickly and efficiently. The arbitration process comprises an out of court settlement between the parties where the dispute is referred to an arbitrator or an arbitration tribunal and the decision of the same is binding on both the parties. With the gradual increase in commercialization of sports activities, it is vital for instituting an arbitration centre or authority to provide inexpensive and flexible methods to sports federations to resolve disputes.

The sports disputes in India are heard and settled by organizations like SAI, BCCI, AFI, etc. The guidelines that are stated under the rules of the organization are followed to resolve disputes amongst the parties. There is no uniform method provided under those books, which further necessitates the need for an adequate forum to resolve sports-related disputes. A Court of Arbitration offers a professional and suitable method to resolve disputes. We are witnessing an increase in sports-related disputes and as a result, India requires an independent authority that specializes in disputes regarding sports persons and organizations.

Due to the high amount of pending cases in the apex court, high courts and various lower courts, a matter related to sports dispute, when filed under an ordinary court takes a long time in pronouncing the final verdict. The delay in the process harms the professional life of sportspersons. Therefore, to reduce the burden on courts, the need of the hour calls for the Government to set up an arbitration centre that deals primarily with sports law disputes. Such centres will provide speedy justice and an inexpensive method of resolution of sports law disputes in India.

Indian Court of Arbitration

The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) was set up in 1983 by the International Olympic Committee to provide arbitration methods to disputes arising out of sports. The CAS is considered as the “Sports Supreme Court of the World” that dominates the dispute resolution in the International arena. The CAS has dealt with a variety of cases from doping cases to suspension of sportspersons. Thereafter, in 2011, the Indian Court of Arbitration for Sports (ICAS) was set up by the Government that provided efficient ADR mechanisms to sportspersons and resolved disputes in the best way possible. However, the lack of awareness regarding the rules and procedures of arbitration among the Indian sports managers causes delays in dispute resolution.


A proper arbitration forum is an utmost requirement for the enhancement of the sports fraternity. The Government should set up a Sports Commission to regulate the functioning of sports in India. The Sports Commission will act as an apex body, governing other sports organizations and advise the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs in issuing notifications and guidelines for the sports organizations.

Additionally, the Sports Commission should be empowered to settle disputes between the parties and penalize the offenders for violation of code of conduct and take appropriate disciplinary actions as well. Further, the institutions of the Sports Commission would result in the abolishment of the autonomous character of sports organizations like BCCI. SAI, etc. Thereafter, the Commission should be entitled to hold investigations regarding misappropriation of funds in these organizations thereby increasing their accountability.




The Opinion is a publication based on Medium. We publish short articles on social and legal subjects, providing an opportunity to the early writers who face trouble in finding people who can review, enhance, publish, and promote their pieces.

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