The role and extent of criminal sanctions in sport

Published 15 July 2019 By: Gavin Brogan

Injured Player

The Swiss Federal Court recently upheld the criminal conviction of an amateur footballer following a tackle he made during a game of football, which resulted in injury to an opposing player. The fact that a player could receive a criminal sentence for making a tackle in a football game may well be surprising.

This article considers the relevant law in this area and when a tackle in football becomes criminal, from a UK perspective. Specifically, it looks at:

  • Facts of the Swiss case

  • The difference between on the ball offences and off the ball offences

  • Consent, UK criminal law and football cases

    • Principles from R v Brown and R v Bradshaw

    • The footballing case of R v Barnes

  • The approach post Barnes

    • Lord Woolf’s guidance on the concurrent role of sports disciplinary bodies and civil proceedings

    • Agreement on the handling of incidents falling under both criminal and football regulatory jurisdiction


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Gavin Brogan

Gavin Brogan

Partner, Digby Brown


Gavin is a Partner at one of Scotland's largest specialist litigation firms.

He undertook a commercial traineeship at Dentons in Glasgow and Edinburgh before moving to his current firm where he specialises in reparation litigation.

Gavin maintains an interest in sports related legal matters and is currently attending the Global Masters in International Sports Law from Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia (ISDE), in Madrid.

Gavin is a keen amateur footballer. During his time at Glasgow University, he played for the Glasgow University amateur football team that qualified for the professional Scottish Cup.

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