Sport in national sports acts and constitutions: definition, ratio legis and objectives

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Author: Janwillem Soek
Date: July-October 2006
Publisher: ASSER International Sports Law Centre
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,103 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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1. The Regulation of Sport (1)

In December 2001, Dutch Members of Parliament tabled a motion concerning the advisability of enacting national sports legislation. As a result of this, the State Secretary for Sport requested Professor Heiko van Staveren, Professor of Sport and Law at the Free University of Amsterdam, to write an Opinion. The general question needed answering whether sports legislation at national level would be appropriate. In his Opinion entitled "Sports legislation at national level appropriate?" which was published at the beginning of September 2003 Van Staveren concluded that there was no reason to enact national legislation specifically concerning sport (p. 13). The State Secretary followed this conclusion: there was insufficient reason to establish special legislation for sport.

Some years later--in the second half of 2005--it became apparent that the Dutch government was still struggling with the question of sports legislation which covered different perspectives (football hooliganism, doping, a foundation for sports policy, the granting of subsidies, etc.). The starting point was not that a Sports Act had to be prepared, but that a solid and careful study had to be undertaken into the usefulness and need for a "foundation" for the sports policy of the Dutch government.

From that perspective, the T.M.C. Asser Institute in November 2005 was asked by the Ministry of Sport to examine by means of a 'quick scan' which countries in the European Union had enacted a Sports Act. In these Acts, the definition of the term "sport" had to be examined in addition to the factors which had motivated the various legislators to enact such laws.

By means of a questionnaire which was distributed worldwide and investigations on the Internet, the Institute managed to obtain the Sports Acts of some 50 countries from all continents. (2) In addition, it was found that although 26 countries do not have a special Sports Act in place, they do have one or more provisions on sports contained in their Constitution. (3)

The collected information sheds light on how the position of sport in society is viewed in the various countries. (4) One restriction which was inherent to the Ministry's assignment is that no information has been collected on countries that do not have a Sports Act or provisions on sport in their Constitution. However, it must be presumed that in these countries rules have been established concerning sport in some other way than through a Sports Act.

Below, we will first deal with the definition in the Sports Acts of the term "sport" and subsequently describe the reasons for which the various legislators decided to enact these Acts. Finally, a few words will be devoted to the provisions concerning sport in the different Constitutions.

2. The Term "Sport"

In the academic Opinion mentioned above it is observed that "sport will be difficult to define in such a way that the field in which the law has effect is clearly delineated. This in itself is already an impediment to just rules. It is not possible to refer to...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A169017212