Role and importance of sport within legal dimension of modern welfare state

Role and importance of sport within legal dimension of modern welfare state


PhD E.V. Aristov
Perm State National Research University, Perm

Keywords: sports, sport law, social state, sociality of state, sports state policy, constitutional law, social values, solidarity

Many issues specific for the sport sector are being addressed and largely covered today by many modern research publications. However, the topic of sports-sector-specific totality of relationship correlation with the relationship being established under and in connection with the constitutional-and-legal state sociality imperatives of a social state (or welfare state as we believe these terms are synonymic) formation process – is still among the least studied topics for today [1; 2]. Therefore, importance of sports for a social state (or welfare state as we consider these terms synonymic) appears to be heavily underestimated today.

In opinions of quite a few authors, it is high time to start developing a sport-supportive legal doctrine geared to provide for harmonized development of sports, based on fundamental rethinking of a wide range of problematic issues in the sports sector; with the doctrine having the highest possible for today's conditions and relatively easily verifiable pragmatic relevance and validity, impeccable internal logic of composition and coherence of the main concepts and constructs and, in addition, elaborative operability [5, p. 33]. Pragmatic relevance (here) is the degree of usefulness and responsiveness.

We would support the above approach on the whole, albeit with the reservation that such a doctrine may never be fully effective unless based on the role and importance of sport being duly recognized and addressed in the legal framework of a modern social state – since it will be unlikely capable of meeting the requirements imposed on it by the state for the simple reason that the central question of a state sport policy [3] (or sport sector policies pursued by state) is “What is the meaning of sport for state and what interest in sports the state must force itself into?”

Many authors that have considered a variety of issues with concern to the state management of sport [6; 9] and state financial support of professional sport [4] have made attempts to address and answer the above question, but these attempts apparently made no success as the discussions were diverted to other issues. It should be noted that no solution has been offered in fact. 

In the attempts to find a solution for the issue of the sports role and position within the legal framework of a social state and the issue of sport culture correlation with sociality of state, the following elements need to be designed:

  • Paradigm of state participation in the sport sector, with the relevant sound and fundamental legal, ideological and concrete grounds for the state intervention (with indication of the intervention degree and limits) in the sport sector; the degrees and limits of the state non-intervention in the sport sector; justification of content and specific aspects of the state interests in the sport sector; major footholds and top priority guidelines of the state policy in the sport sector; and standards of the lowest irreducible level of state support for the sport sector with no detriment for autonomy of the latter;
  • Ideologeme of sport being interpreted as a critically important cultural phenomenon; with the sport sector ranked as an integral domain of the national culture; and projects for the long-term planning and programming of the sport sector being developed and promoted as a tool for the national culture enrichment and progress;
  • Decision on the legal grounds and actual provisions for the state financing of elite, amateur, mass and professional sports;
  • Ideologeme of sport being interpreted as a powerful resource for the public health improvement initiatives; with project for the long-term planning and programming of the sport sector being developed and promoted as a unique tool for improvement of the public health standards and prevention of addictive behavioural models;
  •  Ideologeme of sport being interpreted as a powerful tool for promotion of high ethical and patriotic education standards in the rising generation and as a foundation to build up solidarity in society; and
  • Ideologeme of sport being interpreted as a potent recreation resource of prime importance for a social state and as a key element of social guarantees of the human rights for active recreation, personal development etc.

The available research literature on the subject tends to make emphasis on sports in a welfare state being considered as an instrument to attain a variety of state objectives and develop a variety of social sectors of special interest for the state. In this context sport may, among other things, play the role of a unique environment for practical implementation of the universal equality principle viewed among the key concepts of a social state.

Modern sports are so diverse and adaptable that it might not be a big problem – in view of the increasing emphasis being made on the sociality of state – to have the sport sector duly integrated into the top priority domains of a social state. Special attention in this process needs to be given only to the efforts to build into the “reference frame” those aspects of sport culture that are most relevant to the missions of a social state. And, as far as the sociality of a state is concerned, we believe it should unlikely be considered within the frame of restrictive definitions and contexts.

Some authors maintain that “in the universal welfare state development process, the state responsibilities will expand in a stepped manner” [7, p. 8], with the sport sector interests intervening more and more in the domain of natural interests of social state. 

As stated by Bjarne Ibsen, the social state concept is applicable to the rights and opportunities of the citizens, including their social integration opportunities [8, p. 2]. A few authors tend to support the concept of the gradual expansion of the social state scope of responsibility (meaning the subjective-and-objective “state care” zone) on more and more new sectors, including the sport sector [10, p. 55–56].

Certain integrative-genetics and integrative-capacity related resources of sport (i.e. its valuable people and community integration potential that helps build up the social solidarity culture) are of prime importance in this context. Sport shows its potential in different aspects, qualities and manifestations of sports culture that are highly meaningful for the sport sector (as outlined by the above aspects, manifestations and elements of the sport culture) being placed among the top priority sectors of interest for a social state, for the following reasons:

1) Sports are directly important for the public health protection and health improvement agenda;

2) Sports considered as a form and tool of mass cultural recreation and sport tourism; sport plays a role of potent recreation and active leisure resource with the sports and health-improvement activity and events being a highly important part of life for many people; as sports offer ample opportunities for people to relax (when the sport equipment and services are affordable enough) after hard work and, therefore, sport culture is largely accepted by many social groups as an important component of high living standards and wellbeing (i.e. the lowest necessary quality of life that is or must be guaranteed by a social state) established and provided for by social state;

3) Sports are pivotal for national culture; and meanings of many sports for the local communities are deeper and clearer in the historical context that explores the traditional roots of local culture and the role and mission of many sport traditions for the national values and lifestyles; with the sports being largely accepted as a self-identification and self-affirmation tool encouraging a person to accept and learn national culture values;

4) Mass sports for everybody and mass physical culture are very important as a key element of universal social values;

5) Sports for people with impairments give them the means for reintegration in society;

6) Sports play an important role as the re-socializing tool applicable to and effective for some social groups including neglected children and adolescents; in this context, the relevant sport applications may be very effective in solving problems of homeless, neglected and orphan young people;

7) Sports on the whole and ethnic sports in particular play an important role as the integral element of national culture important for the peoples’ self-identification and as their historical and cultural heritage;

8) Sports provide indispensable means for the human capital reproduction; with the children’s and youth sports and the school-and-university sports and physical education being a pivotal element of the physical and ethical education and development of young people;

9) Sports provide a unique environment that encourages manifestations of the human equality principle that is viewed as one of the key concepts of a social state; and

10) Professional sports comprise an important social sector that employs athletes and protects their social and labour rights.

The above missions and roles of sports undoubtedly fall within the scope of subjective and objective missions of a social state, with the sport sector being rated among the beneficiaries and subjects for care and attention of a modern welfare state.

The ongoing debates on the meaning and role of the state sociality and the new social state model being under design will inevitably cover and explore sport sector issues. It is the reason why it is so important to consider the scope of interests of a social state in the context of the sport sector agenda.


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