Embedding the human rights of players in world sport

15th August 2019

Author - Brendan Schwab

Embedding the human rights of players in world sport


Continued revelations of human rights abuse in world sport have contributed to an ongoing crisis of confidence in the governance of international Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs). SGBs have also failed to respect and fulfil the fundamental human rights of players whose careers and livelihoods depend on sport’s legal framework and system of justice. The precarious position of the player at law and at work has been exacerbated by the development by SGBs of a special sports law—lex sportiva—which lacks legitimacy. The lack of legitimacy is rooted in a number of factors including (1) the lack of involvement of the people bound by the law in the making of it—the players; (2) the ongoing violation of the rights of players (especially vulnerable players who are, naturally, the ones most in need of the protection of the law); and (3) the law’s lack of compliance with internationally recognised human rights. The challenge and opportunity for SGBs is to act to legitimise lex sportiva by embedding the fundamental human rights of the players. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide the framework for doing so. The realistic outcome is a global sports law that proactively protects, respects and upholds internationally recognised human rights and which is enforceable through a properly designed grievance mechanism. Sport can be a genuine force for good by setting a global benchmark for the respect and fulfilment of human rights by business.