Party poopers at sporting events – to injunct or not to injunct?

27 Jul 2023

It is that time of year when we are accustomed to sporting festivals dominating the back pages and the twitter feeds.  Traditionally, by this stage in July England men’s cricket team are a long way behind in the current Test series (tick); football clubs are spending vast sums of money recruiting new talent to ensure Premiership triumph (or survival) (tick); and Wimbledon is happily completed (tick).

What is different this year?  This year has seen the disruption of some of sports marquee fixtures in a way that is entirely new.  Not content with gluing themselves to the M25 and targeting art galleries and high-end shops, protestors have chosen to focus on areas where they think the most publicity can be gained.  From orange dye on the baize at the Crucible to Jonny Bairstow carrying a protestor off the pitch at Lords, sporting events are now under attack.

Recent events have seen arrests by the police followed by charges of, amongst others, aggravated trespass. The question arises whether the civil law will provide any ongoing protection for sporting institutions.

The issues of how to control access to and behaviour at over sporting premises and events is not new.  At base level, the first level of control required is as to those who are entitled to gain access to events.  There has been a steady campaign over recent years by sporting institutions to injunct ticket touts of various types (from the ‘man in the mac’ all the way to sophisticated and tech savvy international corporates).   This serves an initial purpose in preventing the unlawful sale of tickets to those not entitled to them.  Those injunctions have, in a fair number of cases, been followed by repeat offences which resulted in committal applications.  The revised CPR Part 81 has removed some of the pitfalls on the path to justice and has streamlined a formerly cumbersome application.  Those committal applications have resulted in prison sentences, both immediate and suspended.

The real question for sporting institutions in the light of recent protests is likely to focus on whether there is a real risk that the current batch of protestors are likely to be repeat offenders.  There has been only the most limited information in the press about the backgrounds of the recent protestors.  Given that the aim appears to be publicity for the environmentalist cause, it is probably unlikely that any of the most recent pose a medium or long-term threat.  In reality, the ongoing concern for most institutions will be the degree of control they can exercise over tickets to events and ensuring that the person who buys tickets is the person who in fact attends.  In my experience, the visible effect of obtaining swift injunctive relief, when backed by committal applications, is a genuine and effective deterrent to all types of secondary ticketing misdemeanour.

Article by Edward Rowntree


Edward Rowntree

Call: 1996


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