This article is written by Prateek Chandgothia. This article discusses at length the different aspects of sports law in India including its governance and its interplay with other fields of law.


Sports Law as a field of law overlaps substantially with other fields of law like labour law, competition law and arbitration law. Regulation of sports has become necessary in today’s age with the increasing levels of popularity and revenue generation. In the past few decades, almost every sport, especially cricket, football and basketball has transitioned from a simple act of playing to a complete industry playing a huge role in the global economy. Along with the increase in revenue generation, various sports have witnessed grave violations of not only the rulebook of that sport but of the general laws of the land. Acts like doping, bribery, corruption and tax frauds have overtaken the sports industry in the past decade. Certain violations in contravention of competition law or labour law within the sporting industry have been classified under the ambit of Sports law. Sports law also substantially covers the acts of betting and gambling.

International Regulatory Authorities for Sports

International governance of sports has become an important issue in the recent years as grave violations are on the rise. At the International level, the International Olympic Committee is an authority which governs the various Olympic sports.[i] Global Association of International Sports Federation was established in 1967 as an umbrella association for the International Federations of different sports around the world.[ii] Further, at the national level, countries have formed their individual associations like National Olympic Committees and National Governing Bodies of Sports, which regulate the sporting industry of a particular country. Anti-Doping agencies have also been established at the national and the international level to ensure the conformation of the various drug and substance abuse laws. Anti-Doping laws are substantial to ensure that the integrity of the sport is not hampered. World Anti-Doping Agency is the highest authority of anti-doping laws which works at the international level. It works in partnership with the National Doping agencies of various countries which are obligated to follow the rules and guidelines set by WADA.[iii]

Requirement of Governance of Sports in India

Indian Sports industry has witnessed a manifold growth over the past few decades as it has become the prioritised venue for major sporting leagues like Asian games, Pro Kabaddi league, Indian Premiere League and Indian Super League. Along with the substantial increase in capability to organise these major sporting events, many scandals have surfaced in the Indian Sporting Industry. Doping scandals have not been limited to a single sport as athletes from different sports have indulged in illegal doping activities, which makes it a collective issue of the sports industry as a whole. Indian cricket witnessed a recent doping violation as the BCCI handed over an eight month ban to the Indian Cricketer Prithvi Shaw. Narsingh Yadav, an Indian wrestler was banned for four years before the 2016 Olympic games at Rio De Janeiro.   Regulation of the sporting industry would be essential in the post covid era as reports of increased doping among sportspersons due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, have been surfacing time and again.[iv] Moreover, there have been substantial efforts towards industrialisation of sports in India. However, it lacks an efficient and effective framework for governance.[v]

Governance of Sports Law in India

Sports is included in the 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution and comes under the state list. It restricts the absolute nature of the sports regulatory bodies such as BCCI, Indian Olympic Association and Hockey India, as it gives the state government the power to regulate the sporting industry. Sports law in India is governed by policies, legislations and associations like National Sport Policy 1984/2001, Sports law and Welfare Association of India, Sports Authority of India, The Sport Broadcasting laws and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

  1. National Sports Policy 1984/ 2001:

National Sports Policy of 1984 was passed by both the houses of the parliament with the objective encouraging and promoting sports in the country. It was stated to be reviewed after every five years. This policy lacked the regulatory frameworks and provisions for better propagation of sporting activities. As a result, the objectives of the policy were not completely fulfilled. National Sports Policy of 2001 was implemented as a corrective measure for the loopholes in the 1984 policy. It established the procedures and regulations that must be followed by the sport federation to get government sponsorship and representation grants. It also defined the responsibilities of various authorities which encourages and promotes better standards of sporting activities in India. It laid down the eligibility criteria which must be considered while providing government grants to the sporting federations. The 2001 policy pursue the inclusion of ‘Sports’ in the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution as sporting must be encouraged on national level with the central government playing a major role in the same.

  • Sports Law and Welfare Association of India

Sports Law and Welfare Association of India lays down a framework which integrates the legal industry with the sports industry. It is a not-for-profit organisation which promotes ethical practice of sports law in India at the national level. It coordinates between legal practitioners and sports persons to facilitate legal awareness and provide advice on various legal issues within the sport industry.[vi] It also lays down regulatory guidelines for sports associations and federations in order ensure conformation to the laws of the land. The association also facilitates establishment of a forum of legal practitioners who represent sports persons, associations, organisation and federations which ensures the sporting activities are not in contravention of the sports law. The association also promotes the discussion of various legal problems affecting the sports industry of India.[vii]

  • Sports Authority of India

Sports Authority of India is the apex body of sports regulations established in 1984, by Ministry of youth affairs and sports in pursuant of the 9th Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1982. After successful organisation of major sporting events, the authority extended its scope to promote broad-based sports. It laid down policies to encourage youth to channelise the energy towards achieving excellence in sports. It also provided scholarships and integration of sports with academic disciplines by introducing physical education in the curriculum. It also coordinates the numerous sporting activities of the sporting industry.[viii]

4.      Sports Broadcasting Legislation

The broadcasting guidelines have been laid down by Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act of 2007. The Act provides that any “content right owner or holder television or radio broadcasting service provider shall not broadcast live television on any cable or Direct-to-Home network or radio commentary broadcast in India of sporting events of national importance, unless it simultaneously shares the live broadcasting signal, without its advertisements, with the Prasar Bharati to enable them to re-transmit the same on its terrestrial networks and Direct-to-Home networks in such manner and on such terms and conditions as may be specified.”[ix] The objective of this act was to attract large percentage of the population to watch the various sporting events and as a result spread sports awareness.

Interplay of Competition and Sports Law in India

The Competition Act of 2002 replaced the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1969 to rectify the loophole of singular focus towards preventing monopolies rather than promoting competition. Currently, competition law in India is governed by the Competition Commission of India. Section 3 & 4 of the Competition Act provides for scrutiny in cases of violations. Section 3 prohibits anti-competitive agreements “in respect of production, supply, distribution, storage, acquisition or control of goods or provision of services, which causes or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.”[x] Section 4 prohibits “abuse of dominant position in the country, through unfair purchase conditions, discriminatory pricing, conduct amounting to denial of market access, tying agreements etc.”[xi]

The interpretation of competition law in context with sports law in India is currently in its native stage with only a limited amount of jurisprudence. It is evident that certain dominating sports bodies in India resort to restrictive policies in order to restrict the entry of new competition into the particular sport. This was evidently portrayed when Indian Cricket League was launched by ZEE. The extreme reaction from the BCCI attracted violation under the Competition Law of India as BCCI sacked Kapil Dev as the chairman of the National Cricket academy and banned the 44 defected IPL players from playing for India. These kinds of restrictive malpractices have been recently included within the ambit of competition law as the industrialisation of Sports continues. However, The Competition Commission has decided some of the major cases providing a better understanding of the applicability of Competition law in the sports Industry. [xii]

In the case Department of Sports, MYAS v. Athletics Federation of India, the AFI was accused to have violated section 4 of the competition act 2002 as it decided to act against it members including athletes and office bearers who promote marathons which are not authorised by the AFI. The competition commission in the instant case, held that AFI was not guilty of violating the section 4 of the competition act as the decisions of meeting were not implemented and the actions were merely advisory in nature. The commission observed that while AFI is the Apex body governing marathons in India and exercises a significant monopoly over the said industry, various private organisations have organised number of marathons in the past which were not authorised by the AFI. Therefore, it was stated that there was no restrictive practice on the part of AFI and the athletes can continue to participate in marathons not authorised by the AFI.[xiii]

In another case between ICL and BCCI, the competition commission of India held BCCI, prima facie guilty of violating section 4 of the Competition Act 2002 as it restricted the players and office bearers from participating in the Indian Cricket League. The restrictive measures included sacking of office bearers and ban on the defected players. In the case titled Pan India Infra projects Private Limited v. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it was contended that BCCI was, “putting pressure on corporates and Public Sector Undertakings to cease employment to players participating in ICL.” BCCI also offered ‘amnesty’ to the participating players on the condition that they cut all ties with the Indian cricket league. At an earlier instance, BCCI was fined Rs. 52.25 crores for anti-competitive behaviour. [xiv]The final decision by CCI in the case after the investigation of DG is yet to by pronounced. However, the case, provides for reason to believe that regulatory bodies use monopolistic practices within the sports industry by implementing restrictive policies and deterring fair competition.

In another significant case titled Hemant Sharma v. AICF, Competition commission held AICF guilty of anti-competition practices. It was alleged that AICF prevented the players from participating in CAI authorised competitions, which was a rival association of AICF. The allegations included ban on players for participation in CAI authorised competition, signing of declarations by the players that they must not participate in any competition which is not authorised by AICF. Moreover, a yearlong ban along with relinquishment of 50% of the pay in case the players participate in unauthorised competitions. The commission also referred to its previous judgements while pronouncing this judgement.[xv]

In all these major cases, the competition commission considered the pyramid like competition within the sporting industry as one regulatory authority exercises some kind of a monopoly in a particular sport. However, that authority cannot implemented restrictive policy which adversely affects the entry of a new rival association. It is evident that interplay of competition law and sports law is in an early stage of development in India. With the rise in popularity of different sports and increased levels of competition, this interplay will play a significant role in ensuring the ethical nature of the sporting activities.

Arbitration in Sports Law in India

Arbitration in India is governed by Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 which is divided into two parts. The first part deals with arbitration held in India and the Second part deals with arbitration held outside India as governed by Geneva and New York conventions. The arbitration is first referred to the respective sports federation at the national level and then proceeds to international federations which govern the particular sport at the international level. There has been a significant rise in the number of legal disputes in the sports industry, which essentially calls for a more robust and fast-tracked framework of legal resolutions.

Court of Arbitration for Sports is an international forum for amicably resolving the legal disputes within the sports industry. It was set up by International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1983. The composition of the court consists of over 150 arbitrators from 37 countries appointed by the International Council of Arbitration for sports for a renewable term of 4 years. ICAS replaced the role of the IOC after the Switzerland Supreme Court rule that CAS was a true court of arbitration. In order to avoid biased ruling in favour of the IOC, the Supreme Court of Switzerland laid down the establishment of ICAS who took over the role of foreseeing the functioning of CAS and its funding. Some of the non-Olympic sports have their own established tribunals for settling the disputes arising within that sport. The court oversees both commercial and disciplinary disputes arising within sports. Commercial disputes often include contractual agreements such as sponsorship, funding, broadcasting and media rights and also include the competition law violations. Disciplinary disputes include cases of doping violations, sexual harassment and other behavioural violations by the sportsperson. The IOC established the Indian Court of Arbitration for Sports in 2011. It is however, a fairly new tribunal with a limited history of adjudication but going forth into an era of increased popularity and competition within sports, the tribunal will have to play a significant role in ensuring amicable fast tracked dispute settlement.[xvi]       

[i]  International Olympic Committee – History, Principles & Financing. (2021, May 18). International Olympic Committee.

[ii] B. (n.d.). GAISF » MISSION AND VISION. GAISF. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from

[iii] Baron, D. A., Martin, D. M., & Magd, S. A. (2007, June). Doping in sports and its spread to at-risk populations: an international review. NCBI.

[iv] Chandran, P. (2020, April 29). The COVID-19 Lockdown Could Lead to a Rise in Doping Among Sportspeople. The Wire.

[v] Dabholkar, S. (2020, August 6). The Case for Industrialising Sports in India. The Wire.

[vi] Verma, A. (2021, January 9). Everything you need to know about sports law in India. IPleaders.

[vii] Kanth, G. (n.d.). Emergence of Sports Law in India. Indian Law Journal. Retrieved June 9, 2021, from

[viii] Kanth, G. (n.d.). Emergence of Sports Law in India. Indian Law Journal. Retrieved June 9, 2021, from

[ix] Verma, A. (2021, January 9). Everything you need to know about sports law in India. IPleaders.

[x] S.3, The Competition Act, 2002

[xi] S.4, The Competition Act, 2002

[xii] Kanth, G. (n.d.). Emergence of Sports Law in India. Indian Law Journal. Retrieved June 9, 2021, from

[xiii] Re Department of Sports, MYAS v. Athletics Federation of India, Reference Case No. 01 of 2015, 2016 (Competition Commission of India)

[xiv] Re Surinder Singh Barmi v. Board of Control of Cricket in India, Case No. 61/2010 (Competition Commission of India)

[xv] Hemant Sharma v. All India Chess Federation, Case No. 79 of 2011 (Competition Commission of India)

[xvi] Gupta, S. Y. A. H. (2020, April 29). Arbitration in the Realm of Sports Law – Need of the Hour or Not? JURIST – Commentary – Legal News & Commentary.

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