Review: Sports Law By Mark James

Published 29 September 2010

‘Sports Law’, written by Professor Mark James and published by Palgrave Macmillan is the most up to date and serious proposition in the current Sports Law academic books panorama.


Mark James, one of the authors of the book ‘Sports Law’ published by Cavendish Publishing (last edition of 2006), goes solo on this mission. The result is a more comprehensive and useful book, not only for students of the topic, but also for practitioners wanting to learn from scratch.

Where the previous ‘Sports Law’ dedicated endless number of pages to debate whether there is such a thing as ‘Sports Law’ or the number of resolution of the Council of Europe, or the reports about football of the nineties, Mark James goes straight to the point (see chapter 1).

It is important to discuss and to ascertain where we are, but then I would imagine a reader of such a book would buy this to learn, not to lose him or herself in a philosophical debate. In this newer version of ‘Sports Law’ there is very little of no relevance.

The book is divided in four sections: origins and sources; sports injuries and dangerous sports; spectators, stadiums and the law; and the commercialisation of sport.

Each section is composed of three or four chapters developing the different areas; each chapter comes with key words, hot topic, summary and further reading, which supports the students (and their professor) in preparing the lectures. Also, throughout the book, the reader is referred – back and/or forth – to other parts of the book where the subject is dealt with in more depth. Having said that, as to the citations of EU treaties, the Treaty is always cited regarding the functioning of the European Union, which, while useful for students, is incorrect.

The sake of clarity can only be taken so far. For example, when speaking about Bosman, it can be inferred that the player disagreed with the decision of CAS and took his case to the European Court of Justice. FIFA only recognised CAS’ jurisdiction in 2002 – for voluntary submission by the parties –, and finally – in Statutes – in 2004. Also, there is mention to the lack of a definitive ruling from the ‘Supreme Court’, which was only created in October 2009. This ‘consolidation’ of concepts may be not entirely appropriate.

Personally, as practitioner and co-editor of a mainstream publication, I found more interesting the first and fourth sections. But, that’s a personal preference. It is worth mentioning that Mark James is an expert in law relating to sports injuries and the regulation of spectators; perhaps that is the main reason to dedicate two sections of the book to those topics.

There are numerous case studies, which is extremely useful to grasp the ideas exposed. Personally I draw different conclusions than the author regarding Meca-Medina: the considerations of FINA as undertaking are numerous and contrasted in the judgment. Also, when explaining the structure of CAS, the author says that the ordinary arbitrations usually involved preliminary applications of the meaning of a rule before a more formal appeal is made against the final decision of an International Sports Federation (ISF). But that’s precisely the use that the Consultation Process has. There may be disputes in the application of the rule, but the arbitration does not seek clarity in the application, but the actual interpretation of the application to the fact.

One could think that Professor James is not so much in favour of the alternative dispute resolution in Sport. At some point, he mentions that the Matuzalem case avoided an investigation of the legality of the Regulations and the transfer system. True, but the Commission agreed with FIFA back in 2001 about these regulations. Having said that, the author could reply “so was the ‘3 + 2’ and it didn’t avoid the annulment in Bosman”.

What is clear is that the book is very solid and will provide anyone with interested in the area with a very broad view of the Sports Law today.

Alfonso Valero
Co-Editor of Lawinsport.com

For more information about the book, click here.

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