The sports business encompasses a wide range of activities involving spectators, participants, finance and legal issues. The expansion of the sports industry in recent times has helped fuel growth of related professional fields such as sports management.

Colleges and universities now offer specialized degrees such as the M.S. in Sport Management online program from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The versatile program offers industry-specific knowledge and insights to begin or expand a career.

The 100% online program includes a course in sports law, which examines the topic in the context of sports management. The course gives students the knowledge and skills sports managers need to identify the legal issues they’ll encounter on the job. It also introduces strategies for limiting exposure to the most common legal issues sports organizations encounter.

Legal Issues Sports Managers Should Understand

Depending on the products offered, sports enterprises routinely face a variety of legal matters related to:

  • Employment and labor
  • Contracts
  • Liability

Employment and Labor

As a manager, you need a basic understanding of the laws relevant to your responsibilities concerning recruiting, hiring, training, supervising and firing.

Your employee handbook should contain all the policies you need to know about, which likely are based on labor and discrimination laws, such as:

  • Wage and hour regulations
  • Equal opportunity and affirmative action rules
  • Workplace safety codes and security standards

Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with all the other material in the employee handbook, including:

  • Policies and procedures, which contain your organization’s rules for governing business practices.
  • Code of conduct, which describes the ethical standards expected of all employees and likely alludes to relevant current business and employment laws and prevailing social norms.

If your organization’s employees are unionized, you need to know the rules and other specifics of the union contract.


Contracts are common in most sports organizations, large and small, especially in professional sports. In collegiate sports, contracts are necessary for coaches and other staff.

Other types of contracts that may be required for sports organizations include employee benefits; property and equipment purchasing and leasing; franchise and licensing agreements; marketing, advertising and public relations services; travel and transportation; event facility services and vendors; and liability insurance.


Liability issues, especially those that involve “bodily injury to participants, spectators and third parties,” are the main source of sports lawsuits, according to The insurance provider lists seven categories as the most common:

  • Lack of supervision
  • Lack of instruction
  • Lack of risk warning
  • Improper sports injury care
  • Facility problems
  • Equipment problems
  • Vehicle problems

By being aware of these issues and preventing them, sports managers can help ensure the safety and enjoyment of all involved.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Master of Science in Sport Management online program.


Sadler Sports and Recreation Insurance: Risk Management Awareness Training for Sports Organizations Sport and Recreation Law

Universal Class: Your Legal and Ethical Responsibilities as a Manager in the Workplace