Sports, recreation and the environment *.

Author:Brooks, Brian

A survey of contemporary literature on international sports and law discloses that, in many areas, the more things change the more they remain the same. In ancient Egyptian and Greek times, for example, a central question was how to resolve sporting disputes. These disputes ranged from violence between contestants to brawling between opposing spectators, insulting players from other cities, threats against the referee, throwing objects onto the playing field and disrupting the game. Those ancient issue have a contemporary ring, especially in the context of professional sport, and demonstrate that sporting and recreational activities have long attracted a response from the legal system Today violence in recreation and sport is normally regulated by domestic criminal, contractual, tort(delict) or administrative law.

The continuity of issues is interesting. Of greater interest, however, is what is not discussed in the contemporary literature in the area.. Few, if any, of the modern commentaries mention the impact of sport and recreation on the environment and the law's response to this impact. That is a significant omission because sporting and recreational activity is as much controlled by law as any other social behaviour. A simple example is the effect of a sports stadium which raises such issues as: the size and design of the stadium and its surrounding infra-structure; noise; traffic; drunken behaviour; crime; vendors; littering; advertising.

This paper, then, will focus on the role of environmental protection laws and will use as a model the development of golf courses and golf estates as golf is seen as both a sport and a recreational activity. Golf courses, and especially golf resorts, are man-made re-arrangements of the natural environment. Therefore construction and maintenance of a golf course must conform to the range of modern laws which attempt to ensure that environmental issues are addressed from the outset and that the impact on the environment is monitored constantly. The challenge is to integrate environmental considerations into sustainable development. The argument will be that the environmental issues raised by sport and recreation are matters of global concern. While examples will be drawn from around the world most attention will be paid to the Republic of South Africa.

  1. Introduction

    "The most notorious debate among golf course development in recent years has been the plan to create a $311 million project consisting of 592 luxury homes, hotels, restaurants, and a 7,276-yard golf course in Tepoztlan, Mexico. Opponents of the golf course claim that golf-course projects use dangerous chemicals and too much water as well as induce higher property taxes and disrupt culturally intact communities. The site of development in Tepoztlan will be located on 462 acres of communal land within a national park and a biological corridor that harbors Aztec ruins and 28 endemic species of animals (Planet ENN, 1996). The high amount of water necessary for the project is estimated by developers to be approximately 800,000 gallons a day for peak irrigation (which is nearly five times that pumped daily by Tepoztlan). This brings about much debate because of the town's ongoing problems with water shortage."

    Syrengelas, C., Golf and the Environment (a seminar at the University of California, Irvine, June 1997) last accessed 2005/08/16

    "The Estorial Portuguese Open was nearly called off this week because of a dispute over environmental issues on the Oitavos course, host club Quinta da Marinha said. As late as yesterday the club was insisting that areas containing protected species of animals and plants should not be used, but they eventually relented after pressure from the European Tour."

    The Australian Friday April 1 2005

    "While golf enthusiasts flock to Pebble Beach for its international tournaments and revel in the man-made rearrangement of its natural landscapes, environmentalists have spent the past few decades quietly mourning the intrusion of greens, bunkers and clubhouses on their beloved Del Monte forest. And now their mourning has turned to rampant activism."

    The Sunday Independent(UK) May 1st, 2005 at page 16

    "Keeping golf courses green and luxurious takes between 1,4 million and three million litres of water a day. Picture this: every household in South Africa is entitled to a basic supply of 6 000 litres of clean water a month. The water used on a single golf course could supply at least 7 000 households with this."

    Mail and Guardian(RSA) May 20 to 26 2005 at page 8.

    " The golf industry in Spain generates 2,357 million euros every year."

    Suplemento Especial in Ronda, (the magazine of the Iberia Group, Spain) June 2005 at page 7

    "Developers ride roughshod over laws: (Mail and Guardian) investigates the toothless laws that golf estates developers are ignoring"

    Mail and Guardian September 9 to 15 2005 at page 8

    " Perhaps no issue is more likely to have a significant impact on the game of golf in the 21st century than that of how golf courses and golf course maintenance affect the environment."

    James T. Snow, National Director of the United States Golf Association Green Section cited at last accessed 2005/08/16

  2. Continuity of interests

    In late November 2004 the International Association of Sports Law held its 10th Congress. The venue was Athens, home of the modern Olympic Games. The three conference themes would have been comprehensible to ancient Greeks: sports institutions and sports law; resolution of sports disputes; sports law and the Olympic Games. There was a total of sixty-one papers within those three themes and many of the papers would also have been recognized by the ancients. Three examples will make the point: "The influence of the law concerning the Ancient Olympic Truce on shaping the shared perceptions of the Panhellenes"; "The Demosthenes extract on unintentional manslaughter."; "Aggression against referees in Greek basketball." The proceedings were published and join a growing body of literature on sports and law. A leading text in the area is International Sports Law (1) and at the Athens Congress the author was awarded a special prize for academic contribution. The contents of that eminent textbook would also be generally recognizable to much earlier generations. There are chapters on the Olympic Games, on dispute resolution in sports, on the rights, duties and eligibility of athletes, on violence amongst competitors and amongst spectators, on sports as an instrument of foreign policy. Some papers at the Congress, and some chapters in the leading text, would have been foreign to the ancients. "Police electronic surveillance of spectators" and "The prevalence and nature of age discrimination practices in UK sport and recreation organizations" were two papers which may not have been understood by ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Nor would they have necessarily been stirred by a chapter on "Ambush Marketing" or "The Gleneagles Agreement and Code of Conduct" or "Sports Legislation in Mexico." It is also highly unlikely that they would have remarked on the absence of papers and chapters addressing the contemporary issue of environmental protection. Yet to a modern reader the absence of attention in conferences and books to the impact of sporting and recreational activities on the environment is striking. This is all the more remarkable given the existence of legislation directly addressing the issue.

  3. The environmental impact of golf

    There are numerous jokes about the game of golf. A well-known one is the observation that golf is just a good walk ruined. While that kind of remark is part of folk wisdom there is more serious authority for the proposition that golf is not a mere game or social pastime. Indeed a court has gone as far as ruling that golf is not a mere game or pastime or amusement like bicycling or walking or rowing. This was decided when four golfers appealed their conviction for breaching the then law which prohibited the playing of sport in a public place on a Sunday. Four golfers were charged and convicted but on appeal the conviction was overturned. The appeal court took the view that a game was in the nature of a conflict and that as each golfer was playing for himself then he was not engaged in a game. (2)

    That golf is indeed more than a game is illustrated by the observation that in the United States of America, golf is second only to baseball in the frequency with which it gives rise to litigation. (3) Clearly, golf is a very serious business. (4) And it is this recognition of golf as a business which...

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