National Governing Bodies

National governing sports bodies are found in every country of the world. These organizations may exist in relation to a single sport, such as the United States Soccer Association, or with respect to a group of sports that are traditionally treated as aspects of one sporting discipline, such as the Canadian Ski Association. On a broader basis, the national sports bodies may regulate a wide range of individual sports, such as the national track and field associations, or a sport concept, such as participation in the Olympic movement.

The first and the most durable of the national governing bodies has been the Football Association (FA), the governing body of English soccer. The FA was created in 1863 to provide structure to fast-growing sport of soccer; the FA regularized the rules for the size of the field, dimensions of the goals, permitted equipment, and the rules of play. Once the FA had established itself credibly as the ultimate authority in the English game, it was in a position to sponsor and convene a national championship: the FA Cup, the world's oldest domestic sports championship. The first FA Cup was awarded in 1872, and the modern Cup Final remains a powerful symbol of English sport.

National governing bodies in sport are at the apex of the sport in their country. The national body is supreme within a particular country in the following aspects of the sport, including:

  • The leadership of the national body will generally be created by through the election or appointment of persons from smaller, subordinate regions or states within the national framework.
  • The national body in turn will be the official representatives of the country to the appropriate international sport authority. The various national Olympic Committees that exist in every country of the world are supreme in Olympic matters within their own nation, but are from a part of the hierarchical pyramid below the Olympic apex, headed by the International Olympic Committee.
  • The national body is the supreme authority for the interpretation and the application of the rules of the sport within the country. In many sports, such as track and field, the rules applied by a particular country in its competitions are universal. In other sports, the national body enforces and administers a set of playing rules that may vary from the international standard. Notable examples of rule variation being permitted by a national governing body are in basketball, where the game as played at the amateur level and administered by the United States Basketball Association differs from that supervised by the international body FIBA, and ice hockey, where the North American game is played on ice surfaces smaller than those sanctioned for international competition.
  • The national body supervises all national championship competition, including the selection of a national team.
  • The national body will provide the means by which competition venues are selected; the national body will certify courses, approve stadiums, or otherwise ensure that all standards for the convening of a competition are met.
  • The national body will be responsible for all coaching certification within the sport. In many countries, to coach at a regional or national level, the coach is required to pass such testing as may be determined by the national body. The certification process often involves both technical knowledge of the sport as well as a more generalized expertise in sports theory.
  • Many national sport bodies take the lead in their culture in the promotion of healthy sport practices, often in conjunction with government agencies. Sport education will also include the dissemination of information concerning international rules and competition standards for items such as performance-enhancing drugs.
  • The national body will be the sole liaison in the sport to any companion international body; the national body will also deal directly with international organizations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

There are a number of sports organizations that have significant control over a particular sports activity on a national level, but which are not a governing body. The professional sports leagues, such as the National Football League (NFL) or the various national soccer leagues in existence throughout the world are professional associations, distinct from national governing bodies in that they do not regulate the sport on a national level. The professional leagues are for-profit entities that do not have any influence or authority over the regulation of the sport beyond the bounds of the league members. Conversely, such national leagues are not bound by the authority of the governing body for the sport established within the country. It is common for professional sport leagues to have a relationship with a corresponding national governing body, such as that existing between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the United States Basketball Association (USBA).

SEE ALSO International Federations; International Olympic Committee (IOC); National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).