India: Flooring The Competition: Sports Law II

Last Updated: 24 June 2011
Article by Desh Gaurav Sekhri

Published on, 20/08/2009

The business side of Indian sports industry is dominated by federations, larger than life governing bodies, and for the most part, disgruntled/under-valued or pampered/spoilt sportspersons (based on the sport, and who one asks). Increasingly, however, there is a surge in the interest and activity levels of corporations with either a respected inside leader with a genuine and long term passion for sports (i.e. Hero Honda and Apollo Tires), or a razor-sharp core brain trust that realizes that sports are an opportunity for positive publicity and exposure, and as the industry gets more sophisticated, a literal bang for the metaphorical buck (Airtel, Aircel, UB Group, and GMR to name a few). While the two categories of corporates in sports may seem like peas from two separate pods, the fact remains that the inherent business acumen that each possess dictates that the investments made in sports are sound, and do reap benefits even if some of them are not quantifiable, with only an economic theory-proven social benefit and Pareto optimality utility quotient attached to them.

The fact remains that industry sophistication will change the nature of sports in India, and even if the change is not triggered by Indian stakeholders, it will be instilled in this industry by foreign investors, or by exposure to how the global sports industry functions. Globally, the sports industry is no different from any other financially viable and sustainable industry, and is dispassionate, methodical, and discretely quantifiable on an hourly, monthly, or yearly basis, in terms of fractional currencies, and tangible/intangible benefits. In contrast, the Indian sports scenario, barring a few players, revolves around personal relationships, goodwill, and an overall impression of 'hail fellow well met' mentality. While one hopes that the overall geniality of interactions between parties doesn't completely disappear, the reality of the situation is that sports will never attain financial viability if this mentality continues unaltered, and we as Indians realize that there needs to be some degree of professionalism in our approach to sports as it metamorphoses. What is somewhat disturbing is that while our approach may remain unaltered, foreign strategic investors are more than likely to bring in their expertise, industry-knowledge and keen sense of business over relationships, and run roughshod over their Indian counterparts. In no way is this negative: a case in point being the IPL. The two winning teams have Australian captains, management, and above all, the Oz mentality. They are well-managed, sophisticated in their marketing and recruiting, and swift in the dispassionate axing of their Indian teammates. Sport is a business, and the sooner we as Indians understand that, the more conducive it will be to a level playing field. Synonymous with the business of sports are of course the sports-specific legal services and their place in the entire set-up.

There is a reason why the decision-makers in the IPL have steadfastly refused to depend extensively on Indian counsel for their Sports-law related matters. Besides the domestic supply constraints both qualitatively and quantitatively, there is an obvious advantage that accrues to contracts that stem from jurisdictions where sports-dispute resolution or contract enforcement is expeditious, knowledgeable, and free from the constraints we find in India. But from a long term perspective overall, and from a short term perspective for the IPL franchisees, I-league team owners, sponsors, endorsers, equipment manufacturers, sports management companies, and of course the players themselves, the solution has to be grounded in Indian soil. It simply isn't cost-effective or logistically feasible to consistently deal with British or Australian law firms for the most minor matters, and the fact remains that there will be numerous contracts and transactions that revolve around Indian laws and courts, so the easy outsourcing mechanisms are simply not a long-term solution. Multi-jurisdictional legal teams will be necessary, and these can be built over time, as the need for this hyper-specialized Practice Area becomes imminent. Thankfully, the level of sophistication at present is such that this Practice Area can grow at a sustainable level over the next few years, and build slowly. Sports law is not about the bottom-line, and it's not just about the cases that Sports lawyers win for their clients (although that is certainly one of the key facets).

It is a Sports lawyer's job to draft/vet a contract that takes into account each and every aspect of the individual sport and transaction, with a complete understanding of what rights and benefits are possible to obtain, and what the associated obligations and potential liabilities would be. How many of these would be enforceable is another key component, as would be the recourse available in case of any breach. The tangential collateral benefit that may accrue by simply rewording a paragraph is the expertise that is required for each contract, and this sets the base for the negotiations that then take place. To cut a long story short, a Sports law team protects and maximizes the interests and benefits of its client, ensures it is compliant with all regulations and by-laws, ensures that the contracts, if it ever comes to that, are enforceable, and above all, that the contract is futuristic in its drafting, taking into account modifications in the sports landscape. The benefits that accrue can't be quantified in mere rupees and paisas, and in fact may not even be apparent until a certain clause, obligation or benefit is triggered. For example, an anti-doping clause, or the right to test beyond WADA's stipulations, if inserted into an agreement by a wholesome product manufacturer such as a cereal or nutritious beverage, could serve both as a deterrent/inhibitor, as well as protect the manufacturer if the athlete/celebrity does not behave in a manner befitting the brand ambassador of the said product. This clause may never be invoked, but its scope is limitless.

Ironically, contracts are just one aspect of Sports law: a single piece (although the critical one) in an intricate puzzle, that is maze-like and at times convoluted. Expertise comes from experience and mostly from exposure, which is good news for the young industry, as the Practice Area evolves.

The fact remains that the Professional leagues, the federations, and the international entities are all well-represented by international counsel. It's time for the domestic team-owners, sponsors, sports management companies, and apparel manufacturers to name a few, to protect themselves, if not today, then some time soon. A few have, and many will. In an industry that thrives on global influences, the floors for basic collateral support services need to be raised above sea level, before the competition wipes them with the Indian stakeholders. Rome wasn't built in a day, but Pompeii was overrun in record time. We need the basic infrastructure to help leverage us into a position of parity and strength, or it all would have gone to naught. The cost-benefit analysis dictates that the move from an inert position has a 'quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dogs' element to it, and we as Indians are anything but quick with very few exceptions. The Great White Sharks are looming (as Laxman and Kaif would attest), as is the Lochness Monster with a Freddie and KP-backed first salvo. Throw in Bigfoot with the North American Bite, and we may not know what hit us before it's too late. Penny-wise, Pound-foolish, and we may be faced with a disaster of Euro proportions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.