Impressive, insightful and important book on sports law that will stand the test of time

David McArdle
Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Stirling

Jack Anderson, Richard Parrish & Borja García (eds.)
Research Handbook on EU Sports Law and Policy
474 pages, hardcover.
Cheltenham, Glos: Edward Elgar 2018 (Research Handbooks in European Law)
ISBN 978-1-78471-949-4

When I was ten or eleven, a woman from the traveller community knocked on the door of our caravan in Great Yarmouth and asked for water. Being of Irish stock ourselves, she was invited in and given a considerable lunch before dad drove her down to Norwich, where she was ultimately headed. As she left, she pointed at me and said “your boy is no good at football, but he will make a living out of it anyway.”

Occasionally that conversation comes back to me, not least because she was right on both counts, and it did so again while reading this book.

Forty years after that meeting, and over twenty years after the Bosman ruling, there are a host of law and policy academics across the world ‘making a living’ not just from the law’s interface with football but from its relationship with other sports. You still meet the occasional academic snob on the law conference circuit who thinks that sport isn’t a proper field for serious academic work and if you can be bothered engaging with him at all (it’s always a him), you just throw a couple of quotes from Bourdieu, or Baudrillard, or Raymond Williams at him before smiling politely and heading back to where the cool kids are. It was ever thus; but you know there are dozens of people in Europe alone who are carrying out impressive, insightful, important work that will stand the test of time and which bears comparison with any other field of scholarship. Twenty of them have contributed to this book.

On a personal level, its publication was particularly timely because it coincided with my deciding to revamp my sports law module and I was looking for a book that could serve the module’s aims – the key aim being that a small group of students will take a discrete area of European sports law, and devise and deliver a ninety-minute class around it, using a chapter or a journal article with supplementary readings as a basis. The book suits this purpose admirably. Richard Parrish and Borja Garcia/Mads de Wolff’s contributions on (respectively) sports policy and sports governance are accessible, rigorous contributions which can form the basis of initial scene-setting sessions, while Stephen Weatherill’s out-of-the-box analysis of the origins of European sports law will combine very well with Erika Szyszczak’s study of competition law and sports, and with An Vermeersch’s study of the specificity of sport. In addition to providing exhaustive analyses of the relevant caselaw and other primary sources, these chapters provide extensive introductions to the voluminous secondary sources that students of all levels, practitioners, policymakers and others in the field will need to access. In years to come, those five chapters alone could form the starting-point for new modules in European sports law and policy.

So, my revamped sports law module is now mapped out, I’ve written a book review, and I’ve got a free copy of a really good book out of it.

Thereafter, the challenge is in deciding which contributions one’s students should be asked to turn their attention to. This is not a decision one can make on the basis of the quality of the work, because they will all serve as future points of reference, but when reading this with module re-drafting in mind I was particularly struck by the relevance of Andrea Cattaneo’s work on state aid and sport, Jean-Loup Chappelet’s contribution on the autonomy of sport, and Sylvia Schenk’s research on sport and integrity. No module on European sports law and policy would be complete without consideration of the EU’s role on doping, which Jack Anderson covers excellently, while Leanne O’Leary (collective labour rights) and Nick De Marco (transfers, agents and child athletes) both raise issues which are too important to leave out. Jacob Kornbeck’s work on health-friendly sports policy and Katrina Pijetlovic’s contribution on alternative structures will become more important over the next five years than perhaps even the authors realise – but other colleagues could just as easily decide that the chapters by Simon Boyes (sport and human rights), Neil Partington (sport and volunteering), Anastasia Tsoukala (sport and violence), Wladimir Andreff (EU action on sports statistics) Carinna Coors (image rights) or Sean O’Connail (football financing) are the ‘must-haves’. They would not be far wrong.

Looking back to that eleven year-old in his draughty caravan, at a time when most people’s understanding of the links between sport and the law would have been limited to concerns about football hooliganism, one is struck by how rapidly the discipline has developed. It is far too simplistic to lay the blame/credit at the door of Jean-Marc Bosman, but it is hard to think of any other area of law and policy within the EU whose development owes so much to the outcome of a single case. The diversity of contributions to this volume, and the rigour of the scholarship within it, speak to both the force of law and the ever-challenging relationship between the juridical field and the cultural field of sports as they fumble blindly from one difficulty to the next like adolescent lovers in a power-cut. More importantly, it speaks to the academic strength of the contributors, their passion for the discipline and the intellectual rigour they bring to it. This is a powerful collection that will stand the test of time.

So, my revamped sports law module is now mapped out, I’ve written a book review, and I’ve got a free copy of a really good book out of it. The only downside is that the book retails at a whacking £140, and at the time of writing even the web version is £126. That is more than we paid for the car that pulled our early-80s caravan. The economics of academic publishing is a strange world at the best of times but one wonders who this particular tome is aimed at. I need to decide whether to donate my copy to the library or whether to direct students not in the direction of the book, but towards more accessible works in the same areas – all of which will be cited in this particular collection. That is not a decision one should have to make, but there seems little merit in writing things that very few people can afford to read, and many of the contributions here will get far less of a readership than they merit. Presumably the funding model works for the publishers, but it is hard to see how it benefits the contributors and still less the potential readers.

Copyright © David McArdle 2019

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