Abstract of Paper - Staffordshire University

National Law University Lecture
“Fuzzy Thinking: Why we should take a much less
prescriptive view to defining modern sport”
Author Name:
Kris Lines (United Kingdom)
This paper explores one of the key problems with the study of sports law, that of the lack of definitional
clarity surrounding what activities are actually sports. No-one would dispute that football (whether
soccer or American) is a sport, but what about motor racing? Chess? Or cheerleading? Indeed, the sheer
breadth of physical and mental activities, with and without animal or technological assistance, played by
teams, individuals, on the ground, in the air, on water, snow and in hundreds of different combinations
makes distilling these activities into one all-encompassing definition practically impossible. Although this
might seem a small problem given the self-evident sporting status of the major spectator sports, it also
fundamentally undermines the whole discipline of sports law, after all, if you cannot effectively
delineate its’ boundaries or common denominators, how can you regulate sport appropriately?
The problem is that sporting status often brings legitimacy to an athletic pursuit. This might be in the
form of access opportunities for under-represented groups, increased revenue (from governmental
grants and tax subsidies), or exemptions from liability for personal injury. Delineating which pursuits are
sports from other more recreational activities will therefore have significant financial and legal
considerations. This paper will outline various theoretical, sociological and legal definitions of sport,
before exploring how organisations and governments have dealt with this issue in practice, and what
they might need to do in the future.
Keywords: regulation, definition of sport, fuzzy logic, delineation of boundaries, sociology,
exercise, physical recreation
Contact Information:
Co-Director of Centre for International Sports Law (CISL)
Staffordshire Law School
Staffordshire University,
Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent,
Staffordshire ST4 2DF.