Playing by the Rules

The Supreme Court is getting sporty in the run-up to the Olympics with a unique exhibition charting the history of the Games and the law. The exhibition, “Playing by the Rules”, will include memorabilia from the 1908 and 1948 London Olympics as well as interactive displays, panels and interesting artefacts.

Ethics, anti-doping, branding, commercialisation and the role of the Court of Arbitration for Sport are all issues tackled by the free exhibition, which is open to the public from July, a week before the Olympics begin, until the end of September.


It will profile some of the many Olympians who started their careers in the legal profession – including Sir Menzies Campbell, coxswain Lord Moynihan and ski jumper Eddie the Eagle.

“The role of the law in sport tends to only make the headlines when things go wrong,” said Andy Gray, director of the British Association for Sport and Law (BASL).

“When an athlete fails a doping test, there is intense media interest and the impact of a ban from competing can have a significant impact on a person’s livelihood, so understandably, the lawyers are called in; when a football fan wearing a t-shirt – or an orange dress – promoting a rival product is broadcast on the big screen at a World Cup game, the official sponsors are straight on to their legal team.”

Jenny Rowe, chief executive of the Supreme Court, said: “We hope that the project will open people’s eyes to the close and complex relationship between sport and the law – and how the highest court in the land has occasionally engaged in sporting disputes of one form or another for many decades.

“In essence this is the story of how the British sense of fair play has been formalised in different ways over time to support the development of sport, from the grass roots to festivals such as the Olympics.”

The project is a joint initiative between the Supreme Court, De Montfort University’s Faculty of Business and Law, its International Centre for Sports History and Culture, and BASL.

The exhibition – which will take place at the Supreme Court in Parliament Square in London –  will be open from 9.30am-4.30pm on weekdays.

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