Sport as a Legal System

Authored by: John S. Russell

Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Sport

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415829809
eBook ISBN: 9780203466261
Adobe ISBN: 9781134119141


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Sport incorporates the elements of a legal system. It is a rule-governed institution for regulating the conduct of human communities (the communities of individuals who participate in sports). It has legislators or legislative bodies (rules committees or gamewrights) that enact legislation (the rules of a sport). It has judicial officers whose role is to ensure that conduct is regulated according to those rules (referees, umpires and other officials charged with ensuring that the sports are played properly according to the rules). Such parallels suggest that our understanding of sport can be deepened by regarding it as a type of legal system. It seems worthwhile, then, to consider whether philosophical treatments of sport can be illuminated by drawing on legal theory and our experience of the operation of law in human societies. It has been just over 15 years now that a literature has emerged in sport philosophy that has examined these connections and begun to develop what might be called “a jurisprudence of sport” or, in effect, an account of sport as a legal system. Despite its recent appearance, this body of work has had a profound impact on sport philosophy and has important normative implications for the conduct of sport generally. This chapter critically surveys that literature and discusses its implications.

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