South Africa: This Sporting Life

Last Updated: 3 February 2000

February 2000

'Football is not a matter of life or death. It is far more important than that.'

The immortal words of the late Liverpool manager Bill Shankley, apply not only to soccer but to most sporting codes. The fanatical support that sport( engenders is being harnessed by business and sport is becoming a multi-billion- dollar enterprise. "These days football is big business and news of the comings and goings of football managers - as well as player trades and match results - has become required reading for the movers and shakers in the City (of London).... Football is the newest emerging market.... It is huge now and it is going to be even bigger." (Time magazine, 17 March, 1997). The distinctions between sport as a social pastime and the full-time business of sport is becoming more and more blurred.

The fanatical support for sporting codes and sports-men and sports-women within those codes has resulted in the development of cult sporting figures. From boxing's Holyfield through to swimming's Heyns, instantly recognisable personalities have emerged in the sporting codes. Corporations have realised that it can be extremely profitable to associate their goods with these widely popular sporting figures. Similarly, in so far as major sporting events are concerned, exciting commercial and marketing opportunities arise.

The role of an attorney within the sporting milieu is vast. The traditional and, probably, primary role for attorneys has been the drawing up of contracts between the various participants, be they teams, sporting bodies or players within the sporting fold. This area, whilst remaining an important area, is only one aspect in which the attorney is involved. Other areas are:


The traditional sporting structure in South Africa prior to 1990 was that each sporting code would have a number of bodies operating within that code for various racial classifications. South Africa's readmission to the sporting fold came about as a result of the unification of these codes.

Each sporting body, traditionally, is run as an association governed in terms of its own constitution. The constitution of a sporting body is not a static document but, rather, is regularly adjusted to reflect the changing circumstances within that particular body and the sporting code itself. With the development of professional sport in South Africa, it is our view that the traditional association route followed by sporting bodies will become untenable and, of necessity, the sporting codes may be required to register as companies in terms of the Company's Act No. 61 of 1973.


Litigation ensues both as a result of causing damages and traditional delictual actions. In so far as the breach of contract is concerned, the basic principles of the law of contract will apply. In so far as injuries to sports people are concerned, the traditional response to litigation is that the injured party voluntarily accepted the assumption of risk and, accordingly, no action lies.

South African precedent in this regard is rather paltry and regard would have to be had to, generally speaking, English precedents where the Courts have acknowledged the basic principle that, should an injured sports-person be able to prove the commission of a delict, that person will be able to recover damages incurred as a result of the delict. With vast sums of money involved in sport, the amounts claimed could be extremely high.


The various sporting bodies, federations and teams will, generally, have their own identifying mark. The right to use that mark can, at times, prove to be an extremely valuable commodity. The Olympic rings, for example, attract major interest from international and multinational corporations who spend millions of dollars annually to secure the rights to make use of the Olympic rings in their advertising campaigns. The protection of these marks by the various sporting codes is a necessary function of the sporting bodies in order to protect their integrity, the rights of their sponsors and to ensure that any commercial use of those marks results in an income to that particular body.


The principles of employment law find their way into the sports arena as well. The various employees of the sporting codes, unions and teams will fall within the definition of employees and we have noticed, particularly in the international sporting fold, that players' unions have been developed. At this stage, no player union has been developed in South Africa. Perhaps the closest we have come to that was the representations made by the South African squad shortly after the Rugby World Cup to negotiate their wages.

Law has an important role to play within the sporting arena and the examples cited above are merely a few aspects. It is essential for an individual getting involved in a sports practice to be very familiar with the needs of the various sporting codes and sporting bodies within the sporting milieu as well as a sound knowledge of the principles of South African law. Of primary importance, and as a result of the various forces at play within the sporting arena, a sports lawyer requires sound negotiating skills in order to reconcile these forces.


For further information, please contact us.

Webber Wentzel Bowens

The material contained in this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, which may arise from reliance on information contained in this article.

© Copyright Webber Wentzel Bowens 1999. All Rights reserved.

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.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
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.