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UNDERSTAND THE RULES OF THE GAME

Developing sports law in India - Key take-aways from the Sports Law & Policy Symposium 2017


Published 04 August 2017 | Authored by: Manali Kulkarni

On 15 July 2017, the Sports Law and Policy Centre (SLPC) in Bangalore hosted its inaugural symposium – the first of its kind focusing on Indian sport. We, at LawInSport, were honored to be a part of this unique event as knowledge partners.

 

The vision behind the Symposium: An introductory conversation with Nandan Kamath

Ahead of the Symposium, I had the pleasure of speaking with Nandan Kamath, Principal lawyer at LawNK, to learn more about his vision for the event and its purpose.

Nandan began by noting that after practicing for 10 years, with most of it focusing on sports law, he was left asking, “how far has Indian sport moved [in that time]?” Though he agreed that Indian sport has made substantial progress, he also believed that it was time to take a look at the "structural questions" surrounding governance and assess the current state of Indian sports law. He stated that it was time to “ask lawyers to join a broader movement to bring sport to the level where the athletes and the talent we have deserves”.

Nandan noted that the need for proper structures and governance as well as hearing various viewpoints is a critical step in reforming Indian sports. Essentially, he hoped to start the conversations and "bring the community of sports lawyers together." Nandan interestingly also noted that he was hoping to provide further insight into “the macro perspective on [what] a sports lawyer can be.

Lastly, Nandan envisioned the event encouraging participation and initiating that dialogue. From his point of view, the Symposium would be a means to share ideas. Nandan voiced that the focus was on the all round development of governance of sport and the need for checks and balances.

Specifically, Nandan was looking to achieve the following action points from the Symposium:

  1. To build on the inaugural event and make this an annual symposium

  2. To build communities on the digital space

  3. To create opportunities for those who are aspiring sports lawyers or others who want to join the sports law industry

In my opinion, all of the above envisioned goals were met through the Symposium, both through the content delivered and dialogue initiated. The following provides a glimpse into the Symposium and its outcomes.

 

Key Highlights

The Sports Law and Policy Symposium was structured with a mix of discussion panels, presentations, and individual speakers on leading issues in Indian sports law – from broadcasting issues to anti-doping into athlete welfare as well as the legalization of betting in India. The following provides a snapshot of the Symposium and a few key discussions.

Shibumi Raje, senior associate at LawNK, opened the Symposium, introducing a leading figure in sports law, specifically in governance reform both in India and globally, Justice (Retired) Mukul Mudgal speaking about his trajectory into sports law. While delivering the key note address, Justice Mudgal importantly highlighted the interplay between sports federations and athletes in India. He also provided a snapshot into his sports law story and governance issues in India, particularly for the athletes.

Shan Kohli, associate at LawNK, then launched the "10 Reforms Indian sports administration needs", that were drafted by the LawNK and SPLC team. These can be viewed in full here.

Following Justice Mudgal’s speech, Abhinav Bindra, former Olympic gold medalist, took the stage with Deepthi Bopaiah, ‎Executive Director at GoSports Foundation, to speak about his experience as an Indian athlete, highlighting the areas of improvement in Indian sports governance and athlete welfare. After providing a few short anecdotes about his sporting career, Abhinav spoke about the need for stronger governance, particularly through autonomy, accountability, and transparency. He noted that the standards of good governance must be established and met in order to further Indian sports and its regulation. Abhinav also explained that in addition to developing a better governance strategy, the scouting aspect of Indian sports will need to be clearly regulated; the “performance element” of sport cannot be ignored or put on the sidelines.

Continuing the thread of the need for better governance, a popular figure in Indian sports law, Rahul Mehra, spoke next. He discussed his work using activism in sports law, with the takeaway that honesty and transparency are key elements of being a sports law activist. He importantly noted that aspiring sports lawyers must ensure that they do their research and have clarity in their understanding of information in order to succeed in activism and sports law in general.

The more content specific panels began with Nandan Kamath, Desh Gaurav Sekhri, and Anish Dayal on sports leagues in India. The panel provided a unique comparative discussion on how Indian sports leagues and structure compare with the UK and US, as well as the interaction between federations and leagues in India. The discussion presented ideas on how the current structure in Indian could be improved to benefit the sports leagues themselves.

This discussion was followed by three presenters speaking on the implications of shared broadcasting in India. Roxanne Anderson, Sidharth Chopra, and Roshan Gopalakrishna spoke in depth, analyzing cases and issues facing Indian sports due to shared broadcasting. Roshan specifically provided an overview of broadcasting issues, while shedding light on concerns of “territorial leakage” and providing insight on Rights Protection Strategies.

We returned for the afternoon with the sports regulation segment, starting with the mock debate around the pros and cons of legalizing betting in India. The debate between Amrut Joshi (presenting the pros) and Jay Sayta (presenting the cons) provided a wide view of the benefits and disadvantages of legalizing betting. Jay Sayta highlighted the financial benefits of legalizing betting in India. The opposing side presented an argument against betting based on the need to maintain morals and highlighted the negative ramifications legalizing betting could have.

To highlight another leading regulatory issue in sports law, Anish Dayal gave his presentation on the current state of anti-doping in India, the need for reform in anti-doping structure and specifically how the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) handles anti-doping within India. Anish spoke about his own experiences with the NADA through his work, providing interesting real-life examples of anti-doping in India.

The careers in sports law panel followed the sports regulation sessions. The LawNK and SLPC team had strategically created a panel of diverse sports law professionals with private practice lawyers, in house counsels, independent and judicial practitioners, and sports law academics. Moderating this five-person panel with Vandana Gupte, Shivam Singh, Antariksh Das, Aahna Mehrotra and Saurabh Bhattacharjee, brought to light the various approaches an aspiring sports lawyer could choose from in order to become a sports lawyer.

Before Roshan Gopalakrishna gave his closing remarks and the “House Resolution”, Nandan Kamath gave a unique presentation about the five challenges facing the future sports lawyers with roles of the sport lawyer as Technicians, Political Scientists, Economists, Technologists, Business Strategists, and Dugout staff. Nandan’s presentation further highlighted the diverse spectrum of sports law and the various roles that individuals can play in sports law without solely becoming sports lawyers.

As highlighted by Nandan in the post-symposium interview with Sean Cottrell, CEO at LawInSport, which will be published in the coming weeks, the conference ended on a hopeful and motivated note to reform the governance and regulatory structures of Indian sport.

 

Looking forward

The two key take-aways from the Symposium for me, which are covered more specifically in the "10 Reforms", and were also reinforced throughout the Symposium are the following:

  1. The need for athlete involvement in sports governance and specifically the potential benefits of having athletes act as administrators within Indian sport; and

  2. Improving transparency and accountability within Indian sport to combat integrity and corruption to ensure long-term change.

Nandan highlighted during our conversation before the symposium that India is comparatively new when recognizing sports law and governance methods. That said, it seemed that the common thread throughout the conference was initiating reform that would ensure sustainable growth of sports in India and the strength of the regulatory framework which monitors Indian sports.

In my opinion, Nandan and his team took the critical first step towards bettering Indian sports both in the regulatory space as well as commercial. As Nandan initially highlighted, creating an atmosphere that encourages dialogue and brings to light the leading issues in Indian sports and its law, is pivotal is furthering change. The Symposium, given its content and structure, accomplished this and has likely laid the foundation to ensure long-term sustainable change to Indian sport.

With these in mind, I look forward to following SLPC’s work and attending next year to hear about the growth of Indian sports and its governance, particularly to see the effects of this year’s Symposium at the national and international levels.

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About the Author

Manali Kulkarni

Manali Kulkarni

Manali is the executive assistant to the CEO and executive contributor of the editorial board for LawInSport. She holds an LLM in Sports Law from Nottingham Law School (Nottingham Trent University).

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