Book Review - Legal Issues in Sport: Tools and Techniques for the Sport Manager (2007)

In a brilliantly straight-forward and understandable way, authors Rachel Corbett, Hilary Findlay and David Lech have identified and elucidated the “must know” components from years of experience in legal and risk management issues in the publishing of this book. The three individuals comprise the consulting firm, Centre for Sport and Law, and their expertise in understanding the Canadian legal system and applying it to the context of sport is clearly apparent in Legal Issues in Sport.

Most importantly, this book identifies Canadian law and applies it to issues important to managers, volunteers and coaches working within the sport system. For all of these individuals with decision-making authority, and for students learning the implications of legal principles in sport management, this book is mandatory reading and a promising addition to resource libraries.

Writing about the law and legal principles in a clear and comprehensible fashion such that those of us without legal training are able to make sense of complexities and legal jargon is cause for celebration. The authors of Legal Issues in Sport have achieved this goal by presenting information in a concise fashion, and linking the concepts and perspectives to real world examples, case studies, and best practice conventions. I was particularly impressed with the usefulness of three components of the book that are sometimes abandoned by authors.

First, presented are several sample contract agreements, including useful language regarding waivers, indemnification, confidential information, non-competition, non-solicitation, and event hosting. Each example is provided to explain the language or provide opportunity for specializing the wording to specific cases.

Second, legal wording and jargon can be difficult to understand because the terminology is specific and sometimes non-intuitive to the lay person. In Legal Issues in Sport, Corbett, Findlay, and Lech have taken the time to introduce the concepts thoroughly in Chapters 1 (The Law) and 2 (Negligence and Liability), and provided a helpful Glossary of terms and acronyms at the end of the book. The result is such that the law becomes less intimidating as the reader’s grasp of fundamental principles and precedents is achieved.

And finally, this work is comprehensive in that it speaks to the major issues faced by practitioners of sport today, and while using appropriate examples and cases illustrating the sport industry worldwide, it is distinctly a Canadian book. Although this might be expected given the credentials of the authors and their practical involvement in cases and projects throughout each segment of the sport system, the Canadian content and context is still noteworthy and refreshing.

The book presents eleven chapters. In addition to the introductory chapters identified above, violence in sport, fairness in decision-making, doping, discrimination, managing personnel, intellectual property, contracts, dispute resolution, and management of risk are discussed. Without doubt, these materials represent pivotal issues faced by sport managers and executives, coaches and teachers, athletes and parents today.

Setting policy can be a daunting task, and effective policy and decision-making must include provisions for human rights and fairness, and measuring, managing, and mitigating risk. Corbett, Findlay and Lech have provided advice and the information for both understanding and implementing action planning respecting risk, doping, dispute management, waivers and contracts, and many other topics for which the law and legal precedent has impact. Their discussion of the role of common sense, unwritten standards, and case law is especially relevant.

While the purpose of Legal Issues in Sport is to provide the reader knowledge of the fundamental principles that inform legal issues, managers of sport are increasingly engaged with volunteers in a variety of capacities. Volunteers coach teams, run events, fund raise, set policy, and demand results. The management of volunteers is underrepresented in the sport literature, and while legal principles specific to paid staff are discussed, this book could further engage topics and include specifics pertaining to managing volunteers. Perhaps a future edition of the book will include explicit examples related to this important, sport-specific demographic.

For leaders of Canadian sport organizations Corbett, Findlay and Lech have provided useful information and guidance regarding topics of pivotal importance. Issues respecting negligence and standard of care are simplified for the reader. Understanding the risks and responsibilities of sport organizations, and gaining the knowledge to deflect liability is thoroughly discussed. Importantly, the authors suggest risk management as a comprehensive management tool to help sport manager’s plan, organize, lead and govern. The importance and structure of contracts, and legal drafting is also identified for the reader, with follow-up information suggested as a means of handling disputes. The book provides information for both the application of legal principles and the practicalities of leading within sport organizations. These details, along with other important topics, are presented to the reader in a straightforward, understandable, easy to read style resulting in my recommendation that Legal Issues in Sport become mandatory reading for leaders, managers and coaches working in the Canadian sport industry.

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