Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2006: Sport and Entertainment Law Stream.
Conference hosted by Stirling University, Scotland, UK, 28-30th March 2006.
On 28-30th March 2006, the University of Stirling was the beautiful setting for the Annual Socio Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Conference (http://www.slsa-stirling06.org.uk/).This year, 22 subject streams operated coherently throughout the conference, each receiving contributions from academics and students at different stages in their career. Amongst this wide selection, the Sport and Entertainment Law stream received papers from contributors from across Europe. The stream was organised by Dr David McArdle of Stirling University School of Law, a leading writer on Sports Law and one of the editors of the Entertainment and Sports Law Journal.
The papers presented within this stream were of a very high standard. The diversity of the speakers and the engaging discourse undertaken illustrated the strong establishment and ongoing development of Sport and Entertainment Law as fields of enquiry The stream was primarily dominated by Sports Law issues, signifing how sophisticated this area has become. This is further evidenced by the number of new contributors to the field.
Several key themes emerged from the discussions, highlighting the prominence and immediacy of some of these issues in Sport and Entertainment Law, including:
Each of these themes was underpinned by Mark James of Salford Law School. He explored the ‘Continuing Growth of Sports Law’ and examined the definition, role and justification of ‘Sports Laws’ in light of current legal developments in this field. This paper certainly set the tone of the conference stream and acts as an ideal basis for the discussion of the papers in this review.
Richard Parrish from Edge Hill and Robert Branco Martins from the Asser International Sports Law Centre, when conferring on the issue of ‘Collective Bargaining in the European Professional Football Sector’ further expanded this notion of ‘Sports Law’. When questioning where unresolved sporting issues in the European Union such as salary caps and player release clauses should be located, the speakers suggested that this is collectively working towards the concept of an ‘EU Sports Law’. This paper encouraged stimulating dialogue from the floor and key theoretical questions of sports regulation began emerged, underpinning the importance of our assembly and contribution to Sports Law.
In keeping with the theme of the role of the EU in the regulation of sport, EU involvement in the regulation of doping in sport remains a prominent issue in Sports Law and formed the subject of a paper presented by An Vermeersch from Ghent University, Belgium. She discussed the EU agenda for doping and once again challenged their role within this regulatory sphere. The speaker focused on the Community perspective rather than the sporting perspective.
Through an examination of the historical landmark decisions that determined the nature of EU involvement in sport, Borja Garcia of Loughborough University attempted to identify the centred agenda setting models of the EU and how this sits with sport, particularly since the infamous Bosman ruling.
In fact the impact of the Bosman ruling on the currentsoccer regime formed a key theme during the conference. The papers presented here possessed originality and clear relevance to contemporary sporting issues. Simon Gardiner of Middlesex University and editor of the Sport and Law Journal (http://www.britishsportslaw.org), together with Roger Welch from the University of Portsmouth, evaluated the continued influence of Bosman. Entitled ‘Tapping Up, Bungs and Windows: Whither the Transfer System?’ the paper highlighted the ongoing tension between football players and clubs which is further aggravating the overall conflict between player stability versus mobility. The speakers illustrated that players have now assumed greater rights as a result of the shift in moving away from corporatism to much more player power.
Underpinning this shift is Sports Law itself as it provokes us to impose ethical considerations into our research. This is evidenced by the later half of the paper which focused on the principles of non discrimination and restraint of trade. The controversy surrounding the tapping up incident of Arsenal left back footballer Ashley Cole offered a good example of the state of the transfer system at present.
One of the highlights of the SLSA conference stream was the paper delivered by Nassima Marref of Manchester Metropolitan University entitled, ‘The Flamini Case: A Consequence of Bosman Ruling on Youth Team Players.’ Developing the post-Bosman theme, the speaker explored the transfer of young football players in Europe and examined the different legal restrictions that affect the employment of these players, particularly in England and France.
There was a strong audience reaction to this topic as it highlighted the need for greater protection of children in sport. As the average age of football players entering professional football lowers, there is an ever increasing need to protect the youth from the commercialisation of football. The speaker referred to the transfers involving the Arsenal players Mathieu Flamini and Theo Walcott to illustrate the stability versus mobility conflict. Since Walcott was recently selected to represent England in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it is clear that such individuals are being placed under immense pressure for their age. As a consequence, child protection in sport requires greater attention in the future as little work has so far being conducted in this area.
This concern was further heightened by the stream organiser, David McArdle. The basis of his paper entitled ‘Reasons to be fearful: litigation and liability for injuries sustained in ‘horseplay’’ was the recent decision in Blake v Galloway ( EWCA Civ 814). The outcome of this case could potentially give rise to unnecessary personal injury litigation stemming from ‘horseplay’ amongst minors. For instance, children playing with school instruments such as rulers or, throwing barks of wood at each other in a playground could result in their liability. The pivotal issue is whether such ‘ horseplay’ is analogous with sport. The subject of children participating or engaging in physical activities that could potentially give rise to liability, contributed to the broader objectives for the protection of young persons in sport.
This paper certainly reflected a ‘Sport and Torts’ theme which was also the choice of subject area for Alan Barron from the University of Abertay, Dundee. He explored the ‘Impact of Post Lister Vicarious Liability on the Licensed Trade’ and contributed some valuable insights to the stream as a whole.
Supporting the contention that Sports Law stimulates the imposition of ethical considerations, it materialised that Human Rights within sport and entertainment was also a leading theme within this stream. Richard Caddell of the University of Bangor addressed this from a Media Law perspective, exploring the freedom of speech and the protection of journalists’ sources. He used the case of Goodwin v UK (28957/95)  IRLR 664 (ECHR) to highlight the conflict between the protection of sources through confidentiality and the need for disclosure. John Cooke and Anthony Harvey of Liverpool John Moores University explored freedom of speech in a sporting context with particular emphasis on doping in sport. The conflict to be identified here was the balance between an athletes reputation versus the public interest in sport.
The compelling human rights connotations within these papers were reinforced by Seema Patel of Nottingham Trent University. In her paper entitled ‘The Value of Sport versus Inclusiveness: the legal regulation of transsexuals in sport’ the speaker established another key theme to the stream; gender and masculinity in sport. On the controversial topic of the participation of transsexual individuals in sport, the floor raised valuable points relating to individual access to sport and whether the law is acting positively to protect minority groups wishing to compete in sport.
Reasons for differential treatment of individuals based upon notions of gender, were further explored by Loretta Trickett and Simon Boyes of Nottingham Trent University. They sought to identify how legal and regulatory approaches towards sport are heavily influenced by concepts of masculinity, which is exemplified by the separation of men’s and women’s sports. The speakers proposed that the sociological notion of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ provides an explanation for this treatment and could also assist in the reformation of gender issues in sport. This novel topic was certainly well received, with a general consensus that gender and sport issues needs to be prioritised in current sporting regimes.
Brenda Daly of Dublin City University provided a very detailed and informative session on the history and regulation of Gaelic games in her paper entitled ‘Keeping Sports out of the Courts-Arbitration and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).’ She tackled very specific issues concerning the value of arbitration for amateur sports disputes in Ireland. A number of cases were used to support her arguments and the speaker reflected very detailed knowledge and passion in this area.
Geoff Pearson from the University of Liverpool presented one of the most interesting papers of the stream. In his paper entitled ‘Researching the Hooligan: Ethical Issues Arising from Covert Participant Observation in Football Crowds’ the contributor explored the ethical issues that he would have to face when proposing to undertake covert participation in football crowd behaviour. With an established 11-year reputation in this field, the speaker touched on the appropriateness of certain research methods, such as covert operation, to achieve specific research objectives. This merely strengthened the consensus that Sports Law does provoke us to impose ethical considerations on our research.
Those papers presented that were not mentioned in this review, were no less a part of the overall high standard and quality of the stream. Indeed all of the contributions focused toward one main issue that seems to affect Sports Law at present. This is the quest for the theoretical underpinning of why sport is treated and regulated in a particular way.
The SLSA Conference 2006 was an overall great success. However, of more value to this review is the fact that the Sport and Entertainment Law stream represented a pivotal stage in the further development of Sports Law as an important legal discipline in its own right.
School of Biomedical and Natural Sciences, Sport Science
Nottingham Trent University
Patel, Seema, "Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2006: Sport and Entertainment Law Stream", Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, ISSN 1748-944X, October 2006, <http://go.warwick.ac.uk/eslj/issues/volume4/number2/patel/>