First Sport-Related Acts in Foreign States

First Sport-Related Acts in Foreign States


I.V. Ponkin, professor, Dr.Jur.
Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, Moscow
A.A. Solov’ev, professor, Dr.Jur.
A.I. Ponkina, Ph.D.
Moscow State University of Law named after O.E. Kutafin (MSUL), Moscow

Key words: sport, legislation on sport, sports law, public policy and public administration in sports sphere, comparative law, administrative law.


It was not until recently that the state has introduced its public policy into the sports sphere, which for thousands of years operated independently of the system of public authority according to its own statutes. Extralegal regulatory control in the sports sphere has its own history, considerably longer-term and increasingly diversified, than the history of sports legislation, adopted by the system of public authority, which began to be adopted relatively recently [2, p. 98].

We think that a considerable scientific interest lies in the issue of when first Acts on sport were adopted in various countries of the world.

Probably, the very first Acts, which could be conventionally mentioned in this context, should be sought for in ancient Greece. Subsequently, there were legislative instruments, issued by Emperor Justinian, who closed the major part of sports organizations. Acts, passed in ancient China and ancient Japan, determined the rules of military training and contests, related therewith. There have also been many other Acts, which should excite interest of historians. However, based on the modern understanding of sport, we shall better turn to the experience of the modern era.

Argentine. The first field-specific Act of Argentine in the sports sphere was the Act № 4345 of 02.IX.1904 «Development of athletics and football» [19], although, according to Alfredo Armando Aguirre [4], some government policies in the sports sphere were set out yet in the Decree of Argentine of 18.IV.1898 «On the organization of physical training in national schools» (Decreto de 18 de Abril de 1898). A Decree of 03.III.1905 (Decreto de 3 de mayo de 1905) established a General Directorate for training in shooting and gymnastics. In 1908, the Act of Argentine № 6013 «Development of shooting sport and physical training» was adopted [20]. An Act of Argentine № 6277 of 30.IX.1908, «Promotion of physical culture» [21] established Supreme Council for sport. In 1911 an Act of Argentine № 8830 «Development of shooting sport» [22] was adopted. In 1915 an Act of Argentine № 9.685 «The grounds for physical exercise of the National College of Buenos Aires» [23] was adopted. By the Decree № 65.084 of 22.VIII.1935 [7] a tax on income from professional football and activity of societies for target shooting and gymnastics was introduced. Under article 29 of an Act of Argentine № 12.345 of 31.XII.1936 [24] National Commission for sports development was set up. Activities of the Commission were also governed by the Decrees № 103.586 of 15.IV.1937 and № 111.280 of 04.VIII.1937. By the Decree № 107.165 of 04.VI.1937 a National Council for physical culture was established. In 1947 an Act of Argentine № 12.974, which established grounds for payment of official entertainment expenses in the field of shooting sport, was adopted  [25]. Only in 1969 a full-weight field-specific Act in the area of sport was adopted – the Act of Argentine № 18.247 «On promotion and development of sport» [26].

Brazil. Brazilian researcher Manuel Jose Gomez Tubino traces 500 (five hundred!) years of Brazilian history of sports legislation [49]. In particular, the mentioned author refers the below listed decrees to the Acts in the sports sphere, passed over the history of Brazil (in its imperial period). These are Decrees № 2.116 of 11.III.1858, № 3.705 of 22.IX.1866, № 4.720 of 22.IV.1871, № 5.529 of 17.I.1874, № 9.251 of 16.VI.1884 and № 1.0202 of 09.III.1889. According to Diego Augusto Santos Silva, at the beginning of the XX century Acts in the sports sphere in Brazil were adopted only in the form of decrees on military and sports training in military institutions [48, p. 71]. The subsequent Brazilian Acts in the sports sphere were the Decree № 15797 of 10.XI.1922 «On regulations of military and physical training» (part II) [8], the Decree № 21324 of 27.IV.1932 «On regulations of physical training» (1st and 3rd parts) [9], the Decree № 23252 of 19.X.1933 «On establishment of Military school for military and physical training» [10]. The Act of Brazil № 378 of 13.III.1937 instituted the Department of physical culture within the Ministry of Education and Culture of Brazil. Only upon adoption of the Federal Decree-Act of Brazil № 3199 of 14.IV.1941 the state began to pursue a state policy and implement public management in the sports sphere. The Decree-Act of Brazil № 3.617 of 15.IX.1941 [13] laid down legal foundation for implementation of sports activity in universities. By its Decision № 48 of 30.VIII.1945 [14] Brazilian National Council for sport brought into force the first Brazilian Football Code (Código Brasileiro de Futebol).

UK (England). Legal regulation of sports activity in the UK has a relatively long history, however the first Acts, adopted in this field, dealt only with certain aspects of the sport and pursued the objectives, other than those usually pursued by legislation on sport at the present time. For example, in 1671 the «Game Act» was adopted in England.

It is not quite an Act on sports (within its modern meaning), however, there are necessary grounds, in our opinion, to classify this act precisely as a legal enactment in the sports sphere.

Hunting, fishing and shooting in recreational and competitive purposes until the mid – late XIX century were a privilege of exclusively upper classes of society, in particular in England [51, p. 11].

The «Game Act» of 1671 was adopted by the Parliament and deprived the vast majority of the Britons a right to have their own weapons, which could be used in hunting purposes.  Similar enactments had also been adopted from time to time earlier for the protection of wild animals, as well as for the purposes of keeping hunting a privilege for the rich. Game Acts, adopted in the XVI – early XVII centuries, also contained restrictions on ownership of certain breeds of dogs, as well as certain hunting equipment [40].

The said legal enactments established a prohibition on possession of any weapon, designed for hunting. And other weapons were subject to confiscation only in the cases, where they were used for poaching [41]. 

The «Game Act» of 1671 significantly differed from similar enactments antecedent to it in several aspects. In the first place, this Act increased the minimum annual emblements, required to obtain a hunting right. In addition, persons who received income from sources other than use of land plots, these included merchants, for example, were forbidden to hunt [40].

Furthermore, the «Game act» of 1671, apart from Acts, antecedent to it, did not contain any restrictions in respect of hunting grounds, so that a person who complied with the established criteria could have a hunt for sports purposes in any territory, and not only on its own land [43, p. 13].

The first field-specific Act on sport in the UK is deemed to be, for a good reason, the Great Britain Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937. This Act was adopted to ensure the development of sports facilities and encourage population to engage in physical culture and outdoor activities, as well as to ensure the establishment of centers for community activities [45]. At the same time, however, the Act contained only general provisions, relating to the activities of executive authorities in the sports sphere.

Under article 1 of the Great Britain Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937  further activity of two National advisory councils for physical training and recreation was provided for, one of which operated in England and Wales and another – in Scotland. The main functions of the said advisory councils lied in conduct of research and provision of advice and recommendations to respective executive authorities on issues, related to promotion and support of physical health of population through the advancement of sports activity.

Besides, the Great Britain Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937 established a possibility to set up local committees, whose activity was designed to ensure achievement of the objectives of the said Act. The functions of such committees, in particular, were to ensure the development of sports infrastructure (under article 2).

Spain. As a first Spanish Act in the sports sphere it is worthy to mention, and  for a good reason, the Act of Spain of 09.III.1883 (Ley de 9 de marzo de 1883 (Ministerio de fomento)), which set up a Central School of Gymnastic Teachers and Trainers in Madrid, although the fist bill in this field was proposed, according to Antonio Baena Estremera, yet in 1873  – the draft Act of Spain «On gymnastics for health» (Proyecto de Ley «Gimnasia Higiénica»), which failed to make it to become an Act. The Royal Decree of 09.23.1898 established a number of requirements to physical education (gymnastic activities) in the education system. The Royal Decree of 17.VIII.1901 (Real Orden de 17 agosto de 1901 por el que se reorganizan los  Institutos Generales y Técnicos) established compulsory physical exercise classes for general and technical higher education institutions to the extent of at least two hours a week (for all courses and terms). The Royal Decree of 07.VII.1912 (Real Orden de 7 julio de 1912) and the Royal Decree of 30.VIII.1914 set out requirements for physical education of high school students. The Royal Decree of 11.VIII.1919 (Real Orden de 11 agosto de 1919) introduced fencing lessons into educational program of Madrid University. [5; 39] The first in Spain nation-wide full-value and field-specific Act on Sport was adopted relatively recently – in 1961. It was the Act of Spain on physical culture № 77/1961 of 23.XII.1961 [27].

Italy. In 1921, by the Royal decree of 02.VI.1921, a sports club “Lazio” was established as a legal entity. The Royal Decree-Act of 06.VIII.1926 № 1486 [46] and an Act of Italy of 27.II.1927 № 244 [16], which amended it, referred to some issues of holding of public sports events. An Act of Italy of 21.06.1928 № 1580 [17] provided regulation for construction of sports facilities. The Royal Decree of 16.X.1934 № 2047 [47] established as a legal entity a State Insurance Fund in the sports sphere. However the first big field-specific Italian Act in the sports sphere is believed to be the Act of Italy of 16.II.1942 № 426 «Statutes and Regulations of the National Olympic Committee of Italy (CONI)» [18], which established (or reestablished to be more precise) the National Olympic Committee of Italy under control of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreations of Italy.

Canada. The Act of the Province of Quebec on Social Clubs was adopted in 1909 (Loi québécoise du 1909 sur les clubs de récréation) (in 1925 it was significantly amended). The Act of the Province of Quebec on creation of sports commissions was adopted in 1922 and responsible for regulation of boxing and wrestling. In 1939 an Act of the Province of Quebec on the Council of Province for Sports was adopted. On October 1, 1943 the Act of Canada on National Physical Culture was adopted. [1, p. 31]

Columbia. The first Act in the sports sphere in Columbia is believed to be a Decree, issued in 1820 jointly by generals Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander on moral requirements for organization of education. The decree pointed out the importance of physical education of children.  Almost ten years thereafter, President of Great Columbia, General Simon Bolivar in the Decree № 3 of  05.XII.1829 (subsequently amended by the Decree of 1923) authorized universities and colleges to regulate practice of physical education of students. Eventually, the Decree-Act of Columbia № 39 of 1903 regulated in detail the issues of physical education in Columbia. By its Resolution № 26 of 24.V.1911 the Government of Columbia for the first time ever introduced sports exams for state officials. The first Act on physical culture (the Act № 80) was adopted in Columbia in 1925. The Decree № 1734 of 1933 established a mandatory physical education in all educational institutions of primary, secondary and higher learning. [42, p. 11-12]

Cuba. By the Decree № 1454 of 09.VII.1938 [11] the Main Sports Directorate was established. In 1952, a Act-Decree № 294 of 01.VIII.1952 transformed the said body into National Commission for sport. A Decree № 3596 of 26.XI.1954 [12] set out additional provisions on the National Commission for sport.

USA. One of the first Acts in the sports sphere in the State of Texas (US) became a proclamation on operation of arenas for bullfights issued by a Spanish Governor of Texas in 1810. Criminal Code of the State of Texas of 1925 directly prohibited «fist-fighting tournaments» (article 610) [50]. The Act of the State of Texas  № 832 of 13.VI.1933 [3] established powers of the state in respect of control over organization of fist-fighting tournaments and wrestling competitions.


One of the first Acts in the sports sphere in France became the Decree of the Minister of people’s education and religious affairs of 15.II.1868 on teaching of gymnastics at school (Arrêté du 15 février 1868) and the Decree of 03.II.1869 on organization of gymnastic activity (Décret du 3 février 1869). [15]

In 1940–1944, a range of Acts were adopted (mostly by the collaborationist Vichy Government) in the sports sphere, including: the Act of France of 07.VIII.1940 «On creation of the Main Commissariat for physical education and sports» [29]; the Act of France of 13.XI.1940 «On sports equipment» [30]; the Act of France of 20.XII.1940 «On organization of sport» [31] regulating the issues of organization of physical training and sports activities; the Act of France of 26.V.1941 «On record, security and use of premises and land plots, designed for sports activities, swimming pools and other places for swimming» («Borotra Act») [32]; the Act of France of 16.XII.1941 «On approval of samples of sports equipment and provision of grants by public authorities» [33]; the Act of France of 17.XII.1941 «On creation of Fund for assistance to air sports» [34] and Decree of 06.III.1942, relating to application of the Act of France of 17.XII.1941, which established the Fund for assistance to air sports [6]; the Act of France of 27.II.1942 «On resourcing of National Committee for sports affairs, sport federations and associations» [35]; the Act of France of 15.III.1943 «On financing of editors of the administration of the Ministry of National Education and Main Commissariat for sports affairs» [36], which governed some issues of civil service in the sports sphere; Resolution of the French Committee for national liberation (Algeria) of 02.X.1943 on defining an interim status for sports and youth associations; the Act of France of 02.VI.1944  «On sports facilities at local level» [37], which introduced amendments into the Act of France of 13.XI.1940 «On sports equipment». Upon liberation of France, the first Act in the sports sphere became an Ordinance № 45-1922 of 28.VIII.1945 «On the activity of sports associations, leagues, federations and unions» [44]. It was the first field-specific Act in the sports sphere in France. The first field-specific full-weight Act in the sports sphere became the Act of France № 75-988 of 29.X.1975 on the development of physical education and sport («Loi Mazeaud») [38].

Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia). The first field-specific Act in the sports sphere became the Act of Czechoslovakia «On state support for physical education and sport» of 21.VI.1949 [52], which established National board for physical education and sport. Article 1 of the said Act spelled out that the task of physical education is to maintain and improve health of population, increase its physical forces and labor output, which is instrumental in development of courage for the purposes of performance of military service.

Chile. One of the first Acts in the sports sphere became the Decree № 899 of 30.V.1923 (Decreto № 899 de 30 mayo 1923), which allocated budget funds for financing of sport in Chile. A Decree № 1547 of 1923 (Decreto № 1547 de 1923) established a National Commission for physical education. The Decree, which put into force the Act № 6352 of 1929, established a Board for physical education. The first full-weight Act of Chile on sport was adopted only in 1970. It was the Act of Chile № 17.276 of 07.I.1970 «On legal framework for promotion of sport» [28].

In such a manner, we have several thousand years of history of self-regulation in sport and several hundred years of history of sports law, while the history of field-specific laws on sports numbers only less than 150 years. 


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