It is greatly beneficial for voluntary and/or professional administrators of clubs and associations to have some knowledge of key concepts and principles of law. The following CLICKABLE diagram illustrates some of the areas of law of particular interest in sport, and which you can find information on these pages. On this page below you will also find a basic overview of law that provides an explanation of the different types of law such as Common Law and Legislation.
Law is a body of rules that we, as a society, self-impose to ensure that:
A very important aspect of law is that the system of rules imposed by society is enforced. Therefore, if a person behaves in a socially unacceptable manner or fails to adhere to societal rules, they may be required to pay a penalty or compensation, or they may even have their liberty taken away to prevent further socially unacceptable behaviour. The enforcement of law is carried out by police and other law enforcement agencies.
Law emanates from two sources:
Legislation is law that is made in parliament by elected representatives of the people (members of parliament). Any member of parliament can propose a law to be made or an amendment to existing law but they need a majority of other members of the parliament to agree and pass the legislation. Generally, however, in a democratic multi-party system it is the government of the day that proposes new legislation rather than an individual member of parliament. It should be noted that the main duty of a member of parliament is to participate in law making and that is why members of parliament are also called legislators. Furthermore when a new law comes into existence as a result of voting processes within the parliament it is called an Act of Parliament.
At any one time, there will be hundreds of Acts of Parliament in existence that impose rules and regulations on individuals and corporate entities (businesses). One of the most important pieces of legislation is the Criminal Code. Contained within this very large document is a list of everything that is considered a criminal act (a crime). A form of behaviour, whether by an individual or a corporate entity, is only a crime if the Criminal Code says it is. From time to time the Criminal Code is changed in accordance with public opinion. For example, sections of the Criminal Code have been removed with regard to homosexuality and sections added with regard to child pornography.
If a person commits a crime, they are prosecuted by the state. This is because a crime is deemed as an offence committed against everyone i.e. the public, even though only one individual may have been wronged. For the prosecution by the state to be successful the charge must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard of proof. If the state's prosecution succeeds it will seek a punishment of the offender and this may be a FINE (for minor offences) or a term of IMPRISONMENT(for more serious offences).
The actions of individuals and corporate entities may, from time to time, accidentally or deliberately cause harm to others. This harm can take many forms such as injury, financial loss, or spoiling of a person's enjoyment of life. In many cases when a responsible individual causes harm to another, they may try to put things right themselves and there is no need to resort to a court of law. However, it is often the case that an individual or corporate entity denies they have caused harm and seeks to avoid compensating the harmed individual. In such circumstances, the harmed individual has no other way to seek redress for their suffering or loss except by taking the matter to a court and obtaining a judgment.
When an individual or corporate entity takes a matter to court to seek redress, both parties involved in the dispute will present their case. The party alleging they have suffered harm is called the plaintiff and the party who is alleged to have caused the harm is called the defendant. Sometimes a jury is involved but most often the decision as to whether the plaintiff or defendant "wins" the case is made by the judge alone. The judge will listen to arguments from both sides, interpret the reliability of the facts of the case, and then make their judgment. The standard of proof is lower than a criminal trial. Instead of beyond all reasonable doubt, the judge will make the decision based on the 'balance of probabilities".
Most often when the plaintiff wins the case, the judge will order the defendant to pay 'damages' (that is to pay compensation to the plaintiff for the harm caused). But this is not always the case. In some circumstances it is not money that the plaintiff wants but that the defendant should do or stop doing something. For example, the plaintiff may want the defendant to stop emitting noise or smell from their land which causes the plaintiff a continual annoyance.
Importantly, judgments made in law courts can have a special and potentially long-lasting effect on the law of the land. Because there is always the likelihood that cases with similar facts and circumstances come before the courts over time, judges tend to review previous cases and take note of the decisions made in the case. This means that when a decision is made in a particular case it becomes a 'precedent' for all similar cases in the future. The most famous example of this is the famous Donoghue v. Stevenson case.