Sports, Recreation and the Environment *

By Brooks, Brian | The International Sports Law Journal, January-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Sports, Recreation and the Environment *


Brooks, Brian, The International Sports Law Journal


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.

I. 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) darwin.bio.uci.edu/~sustain/global/sensem/Syrengelas97.html 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. …

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