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Violence in sports – A red card or jailtime?

October 26th, 2007 by rsommerseth · 6 Comments

Footballbrawl in Champions LeagueNormally it is the sportsorganizations, clubs, assosiations or others, responsibility to suspend athletes or give them fines, when their actions go beyond the threshold. But in which cases are it a matter for the Court of law, or is it at all?
Should the world of sports be allowed to follow their own rules?

By Rasmus Anker Sommerseth

Every sport has it own rules. When they are broken, there must be consequenses. Otherwise the rules have no meaning. But in almost all cases, the matter is dealt with within the sport. It often ends up with a suspension for the athlete, maybe along with a fine. But is this enough if the violation of the rules are sufficiently grave?

In what matter does an athlete concent to violence in his or her special sport? In boxing, of course, hitting is an important part of the game and therefore allowed, but should the same be allowed in a soccergame or tennismatch? Could a player get jailtime for hitting another player with intention on the field? Is this a matter for the court of law, or the sports own organs?

There is a problematic connection between the criminal law concepts of consent and ‘Playing Culture’ in light of different perceptions of violence on the sports-field.

This paper by Adam Pendelbury from University of Central Lancashire discusses the area.

The author takes a closer look at the case of R v Barnes which deals with the issue of acts of foul play in sports. Does the rules of the game determine what is consensual harm on the sports field – or can it be brought to criminal justice by the courts?

Bad tackle, bad day in court

The R v Barnes case set at new standard in the field of game rules vs. criminal laws.
In this case, Barnes had been charged with unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm after seriously injuring an opposing player during an amateur football match.
The Prosecution considered that the elements of the offence were satisfied since the injury was sufficiently serious and that Barnes committed the tackle either intentionally or with foresight of at least some harm.

Barnes was acquitted – referring to the rules of football being adequate - but the case was appealed, and the Court of Appeal convicted Barnes, stating that conduct that was sufficiently grave to be labelled as criminal should result in conviction.

This case laid out guidance as to how Playing Culture might be interpreted in the law, especially in relation to its boundaries and thus what might constitute the threshold for criminal liability.

Coaches and trainers responsibility

Can coaches and trainers be held responsible for the behaviour and actions of their young athlethes during sports? Should the law regulate this, or is it just a matter of good or bad moral or sportsmanship? In Canada a similar case ended up in court.

A university football player got injured, and he sued the coach (and his employer, a university) for ”failing to prevent his staff and players from embarking upon unreasonably dangerous activities during the course of a football game”.

In summary, the Court found that while there might well be circumstances under which a coach could be held responsible for the actions of a player, this case was not one of them.

The subject of violence in sports raises many questions, what is your opinion? Can a hard tackle be violence? Or do we accept those situatios as we enter the playing field?

Tags: Theme: Autonomy of sport

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