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Book reviews

1 October 01

Review of Sport and the Law: the Scots Perspective

by Robert Shiels

Sport in Victorian times may have been referred to as a “diversion” but it is now big business. Sport and the law, for some, may be unhappy associates. This book, however, makes it abundantly clear that in Scotland and elsewhere the close relationship will continue for some time.

Sports law is both the application of the ordinary law to sport and also the application of specific laws directed to sport. That is very clear from this welcome collection of papers on particular topics by various lawyers with an expertise or interest. The latter may be thought controversial in one respect: Robin Fletcher suggests (at p103) that, “Knowledge of and genuine enthusiasm for sport is vital”. Perhaps these qualities may only be helpful rather than vital.

At any rate, 11 papers are presented in this book, although the notes on contributors list only ten. Nothing is said about Kirsty Middleton although her explanation of the Bosman case is both illuminating and helpful because the case extends in practice beyond football.

The book is by lawyers and for lawyers, but open to all sports people, with an interesting introductory paper from Donald Findlay. The general reader will be assisted by Bill Stewart’s first paper on Scots law, although the omission of a few words about the structure of the courts may mean a less than full picture is presented.

Heather-Ann Barton’s contribution on the managing of a large modern football club – Celtic plc – is both interesting and revealing, not least as to the true scale of the venture. She observes that attending a football match “can properly be described as a sensory experience”. (p22) There are less charitable descriptions.

The business approach may be contrasted with the interest element. Lorne Crerar writes with obvious depth of experience on rugby and so too does Bill Stewart on skiing.

The absence of a Scots perspective is explicitly mentioned by some contributors: see Messrs Morris and Spink on the Court of Arbitration (p61) and Alan Grosset on drugs in sport (p130). It is certain, however, that such an absence does not diminish the interest or relevance of these papers.

Overall, the book is an excellent addition to the growing literature on sport and the law and one which will be read with interest internationally given the nature of the subject matter. At £50 the purchase price does seem a little excessive: the alternative purchase would be a considerable quantity of pies and Bovril which readers will learn are zero-rated for VAT if they are sold for consumption on the premises (p12).

Robert Shiels