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A closer look at Malta’s Sports Act

This two-part article shall provide an overview of the Maltese legislation that deals with sports law. Part 1 focuses on the Sports Act (Chapter 455 of the Laws of Malta), whilst Part 2 (to be published on May 19 2024) shall focus on the Sports Governance and Integrity Act of 2021.

Malta is one of the few countries in the world that has a dedicated chapter in the Laws of Malta that regulates sports from a legislative point of view. Chapter 455 of the Laws of Malta (Sports Act) was enacted back in 2003 via Act XXVI of 2002 and has over the years gone by, owing to the rapid changes that have occurred in the sports industry, been amended numerous times, with the latest amendment occurring in 2021.

Part I of the Act contains a number of declarations of principles that are set out by the State in Article 3 of the Act.

Firstly, there is a recognition by the State that physical education and sport shall be taught and practised in all primary and secondary schools within Malta and Gozo.

Furthermore, the State recognises that no discrimination should be permitted on the grounds of sex, race, colour, religion or political opinion or residence within different localities of Malta and Gozo in the access of sport facilities or to sport activities and also recognises that everyone should have the opportunity to take part in sport.

Interesting to note is the fact that these declaration of principles shall not be enforceable in any court, but are simply inserted in the Act to be of guidance in the regulation and promotion of sport in Malta.

The Act defines “sport” as “all forms of physical or mental activity which, through casual or organised participation or through training activities, aim at expressing or improving physical and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.

But it excludes those activities held for therapeutic or clinical purposes or are part of the activities of health institutions or health centres, and includes any other activity as the Minister may from time to time and after consultation with SportMalta prescribe.”

Thus, this extensive definition tries to capture as many different types of sport as possible, whilst also leaving the door open for other/new sports to also be recognised in the future.

Part II regulates the establishment, functions and conduct of affairs of SportMalta (previously known as Kunsill Malti ghall-Isport).

Sport promotion

It must be pointed out that at the time that this Act was enacted, the powers granted to SportMalta were much more extensive, however following the setting up of the new Authority for Integrity in Maltese Sport (AIMS), some of the powers previously vested to Sport Malta have since been shifted to AIMS.

Today, the objectives and functions of SportMalta are primarily to promote and encourage the development of increased participation in sport in Malta and the improved performance by athletes in sport.

Also to develop and implement programmes that promote equality of access to and participation in sport.

To promote a culture of excellence in sport and to ensure the provision of resources, services and facilities for the promotion of sport in Malta as well as promoting a culture of participation in sport among people, especially children and youths, as an aspect of personal and social development within the context of government policy on education and health.

Article 4 regulates the setting up of the Board of Directors of Sport Malta which should be composed of not less than seven and not more than nine members, all of whom should have experience in matters relating to sport. The Board plays an important part in shaping the conduct of Sport Malta.

Part VIII of the Act regulates the setting up of a sport dispute resolution whereby SportMalta may provide assistance in the resolution of a dispute in all matters relating to sport.

Or where registered persons are involved through either the provision of mediation services in matters relating to sport, assistance to the parties in the dispute to make reference to arbitration in accordance with the provisions of Part IV of the Arbitration Act or through the facility of advisory opinions.

Articles 47 and 48 of the Act regulate the setting up of a Sport Appeals Board, however the competence of this board is solely limited to any decision of Sport Malta taken pursuant to the provisions of Part VII of this Act or under article 54 and any regulations made thereunder and in such other cases as may from time to time be prescribed.

Thus, if a sport dispute exists that does not involve Sport Malta, the aggrieved party cannot lodge an appeal to the Sport Appeals Board.

Even though the sports industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, the provisions contained within the Sport Act still continue to be of relevance to the development of sports law in Malta.

Rather than amending extensively the Sports Act to try and keep up with the growth of the sports industry, the Maltese legislator has instead opted to enact other specific pieces of legislation to deal with other areas pertaining to sports law.

Note: Dr Robert Dingli is a Senior Associate at Dingli & Dingli Law Firm and specializes in sports law.

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