Interview By- Sakshi Komal Dubey

Mr.Tarun Singh is an Assistant Professor (Research) at Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), Gandhinagar, with four years of experience in research and teaching. He pursued his first LLM in Constitutional and Administrative Law from GNLU, and currently, he is pursuing his second LLM in Sports Law and Practice from De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.

VAIDHA Law Journal is elated to receive this opportunity of interviewing him on the impact of COVID-19 on sports law and industry.

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1.Please introduce yourself to our readers?

I want to introduce myself as a sports enthusiast and a former football player (A proud goalkeeper!). 90% of what I am is due to my engagement with sports all my life. In a professional capacity, I am an Assistant Professor at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, and a faculty member at the GNLU Centre for Sports and Entertainment Law (GCSEL)

2. What on all fronts do you think COVID-19 will affect the sports law and the sports industry?

The most heartbreaking part is that sports, as an activity, came to a halt for a long time. Due to physical distancing measures and lockdown on overall social life, the Olympics were postponed, major soccer tournaments like UEFA Champions League, La Liga, EPL were at a halt. In India, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was taken to the UAE with no spectators. All of this has not only impacted the economics of sport, accelerated job loss in the industry, etc. but most importantly and unfortunately, broke the athlete-fan bond (in-stadium). I miss the adrenaline that the applause creates when Sunil Chettri scores a screamer, or P.V. Sindhu smashes the shuttle in the opponent's court. Glad to see a few countries have opened sports arenas for the public. I hope to see the same in India soon!

Legally, COVID-19 has pushed law and policymakers to think of restructuring legal aspects associated with sports. For example, the force majeure clause in sports contracts. Due to the cancellation of events, there has been a rise in lawsuits globally, with the parties, be it a broadcaster, ticket holder, player, sponsor, etc., filing suits for the implementation of contractual obligations. It is high time that stakeholders now develop a crisis management strategy where contractual distress arising out of such unforeseen situations can be handled better, creating a win-win situation for all the parties.

3. COVID-19 is affecting sports events throughout the globe; what difference do you see in the way of addressing the problem here at home and outside?

I personally feel that a proper strategy has to be made before resuming sporting events in India. I am sure the administrators have some plans with them, but the implementation has to be better. We saw what happened in the IPL. Public health is of paramount importance, and that can't be ignored. Let's first control the virus spread and keep sport away from contaminated areas. In the meantime, the physical and mental health of the athletes has to be held in place.

Athletes who are suffering economically have to be supported. Proper pension and compensatory schemes in sports have to be drafted, and the government, federations, and associations should ensure that the benefits reach the needy athlete. Not every sport in India offers money as cricket does, so special arrangements must be made for athletes coming from other sports. This is an excellent opportunity for all sports stakeholders to shuffle things a bit and make severe amendments to the sporting structure so that in the future, if such a situation arises, we can mitigate the impact.

4. Should the government formulate new legislation or amend the older ones as the dimensions regarding sports are changing? And if yes, then where and what should be changed, please provide a brief.

Amending legislation or substituting them can only happen when we actually have legislation that governs sports. We have a number of bills pending in the parliament, and now we should seriously consider debating them and passing them. Issues associated with unethical practices, doping, competition manipulation, etc., are serious parasites that weaken the sports industry, and it's high time we formulate sports-specific legislation to combat these issues. I also believe that society has first to understand the significance of sports in nation-building. Something that brings people together puts them on an equal footing, whether as an athlete or a fan, brings tears when we win or lose can't just be an entity for entertainment. We all have experienced the goosebumps sports give us. Let's give it the respect and importance it deserves and work towards making it a better place for our athletes and all the stakeholders associated with it.