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The State of Kuwait has a longstanding history in sports activity and is one of the few countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council to implement a legal framework specifically to regulate the operation of sports activities and the functioning of sports entities, including the regulation of sports federations, the Olympic committee and sports clubs.
Before enacting the current sports law No. (87) of 2017 (‘Sports Law’), sports activities in Kuwait were primarily regulated by the repealed Law No. (42) of 1978 regarding Sports Entities. The repealed law was subject to criticism by the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) because, contrary to the international Olympic Charter, it did not achieve complete independence for sports activity in Kuwait. More specifically, the criticism suggested the repealed law did not protect against governmental interference in the internal functions of the Kuwaiti National Olympic Committee (‘KNOC’). As a result of such criticism, KNOC was suspended by the IOC in 1986 and Kuwaiti national athletes were not permitted to participate in international Olympic games as representatives of the State of Kuwait, albeit they were permitted to participate as independent athletes under the flag of the IOC. Kuwait’s relationship with the IOC has gone through some ups and downs and whilst Kuwaiti athletes were sometimes allowed to participate in international Olympic games as official athletes of Kuwait, at other times the IOC banned official participation of Kuwaiti athletes.
In order to put an end to the debate as to the compliance of Kuwaiti laws with international standards of sports law, the Kuwait Parliament. in 2016. voted by a majority of over two-thirds to amend the then applicable sports law to facilitate dialogue with the international sports community and to refute claims that Kuwait was not in compliance with its international commitments.
On 4 December 2017, the Kuwait Parliament enacted the Sports Law to facilitate the restructuring of the Kuwaiti sports community, including sports federations, election procedures for sports club boards and to provide internal bylaws for sports clubs as well as to eliminate any perception of governmental interference in the internal functions of the KNOC.
As defined under Article (38) of the Sports Law, the KNOC is a Sports Entity that enjoys independent legal personality and it aims to support, develop and sponsor the Olympic movement in the country as per the rules of the Olympic Charter. The general assembly of the KNOC is the superior authority of the KNOC and it exercises its powers with complete independence in light of the KNOC’s bylaws as approved by the IOC.
The KNOC exclusively represents Kuwait in Olympic games and related sports competitions organised by the IOC on regional, continental or international levels. No other Sports Entity or body may use the same name, slogan or marks of the KNOC without obtaining the prior approval of the KNOC.
Article (41) of the Sports Law defines the KPC as an independent Sports Entity that enjoys independent legal personality and is recognised by the International Paralympic Committee. The KPC aims to support, develop and sponsor the Paralympic movement in the country as per the rules of the Paralympic Charter. The general assembly of the KPC is the superior authority of the KPC and it exercises its powers with complete independence in light of the KPC’s bylaws as approved by the International Paralympic Committee.
The KPC exclusively represents Kuwait in Paralympic games and related sports competitions organised by the International Paralympic Committee on regional, continental or international levels. No other Sports Entity or body may use the same name, slogan or marks of the KPC without obtaining the prior approval of the KPC.
While the Sports Law represents a significant step forward in regulating the main foundations of the Kuwait sports community, it does not regulate in significant detail some other important aspects of the sports industry. These areas include, but are not limited to, fan conduct, the management and organisation of sports events and guidelines for investment in the sports sector. Promulgation of the Sports Law was a positive and necessary step to put an end to criticisms regarding the independence of Sports Entities in Kuwait. however, further beneficial steps could be taken through supplementary regulations or amendments to better position the Sports Law to address broader practical concerns in a potentially, promising industry.