Studying law and sport in New Zealand

Learn what you can expect to study in a Law and Sport programme.

The law is now an integral part of sport. Law and Sport is an area of law that is studied in New Zealand, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Resulting research papers have been published and have won international awards.

Undergraduate courses explore the application of numerous legal principles to a specialist environment, the uniqueness of which invites innovative and interesting legal arrangements. By the end of the course, students will usually have a working knowledge of legal problems associated 
with sport.


“Some law graduates use their study of sports law to gain employment in legal firms or industries specialising in the area”

Topics studied vary from year to year but can include some of the following issues:

  • The Sports Tribunal in New Zealand and the Sports Anti-Doping Act 2006. Drugs in sport and other medical issues feature often in sports law
  • New Zealand’s law on restraint of trade is considered, as is the recent focus shift to competition law. With respect to the latter, issues such as the employee/independent contractor status, services, markets, and public benefits and detriments are important. Cases are studied, such as the salary cap decision: Rugby Union Players’ Association Inc v Commerce Commission (No 2) [1997] 3 NZLR 301
  • Athletes’ unfair contracts are highlighted, especially in the areas of human rights (including discrimination) monopoly restrictions and exclusionary provisions
  • A careful examination of decisions 
relating to judicial review is conducted, and attention is placed on the high profile 
cases - such as Cropp v Judicial Committee [2008] 3 NZLR 774 - where a jockey challenged her positive drug test on the ground of unreasonable search and 
seizure under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
  • Sponsorship and sports marketing are studied in detail: what is misleading and deceptive conduct? When is there a breach of the Copyright Act 1994 or the Trade Marks Act 2002?
  • New Zealand leads the world in its innovative attempts to combat ambush marketing by the passing of its Major Events Management Act 2007. The Rugby World Cup will be held in New Zealand late this year (2011) and, while the Act has applied to a few major sporting events to date, it is the Rugby World Cup that will really test the provisions. The Act is 
studied thoroughly
  • Studies are made on defamation and on the criminal aspects of sports law. The high profile case of an organiser of a cycle race being charged with criminal nuisance on the ground that her ambiguous pre-race instructions about road closures led to the death of a cyclist ( R v Andersen [2005] 1 NZLR 774) sent shock waves through the New Zealand sporting community
  • New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Act 2001 creates a no-fault policy for personal injury. This is of course highly relevant in the area of sports injuries. Students study this Act and compare its effect on athletes, referees and organisers as against the common law concept of negligence that applies in other countries

Some law graduates use their study of sports law to gain employment in legal firms or industries specialising in the area.

Provided by ANZSLA – The Australian & New Zealand Sports Law Association (2011)