Criminal and civil Liability of Football Players

Criminal and civil Liability of Football Players

In sports, more specifically in contact sports like football, players can get psychical. Especially between strikers and defenders, things can get heated. Sometimes players cross the line of what is permissible and tackle another player instead of the ball. Besides the disciplinary punishment by the referee (like a yellow or red card) and the competent disciplinary bodies of sports federations, the question arises whether a player could in such case be held liable under civil law or criminal law. Decisions of the North Netherlands District Court and The Hague Court of Appeal, concerning liability of an amateur player for the injury of an opponent, have caused quite a stir. In this article, the author explains when a player could be held liable under civil law or criminal law in the Netherlands. If an injured player wants to hold the other player liable, he requires the personal data of such player. If the injured player asks the football club for those personal data, would the football club be obliged to hand over this information?

Decision of the North Netherlands District Court of 12 May 2017, ECLI:NL:RBNNE:2016:1502

Decision of the The Hague Court of Appeal, 21 July 2017, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2017:2324

Civil liability

Civil liability in sport situations is more complex than “regular” civil liability cases. The threshold for liability in football cases under Dutch Law is very high. After all, football is a contact sport and during the game there is a real chance of getting an injury and by participating in a football match, players to a certain extent accept such risk. Only when a player’s behaviour exceeds the threshold of what is permissible - i.e. behaviour becomes abnormal and is in clear violation of the rules of the game - can a player be held liable.

Some examples of behaviour that can be considered as abnormal and do not comply with the rules of the game are (a) a tackle from behind when...

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