Assault in Football - Implied Consent

Football Agents - Implied Consent
Football Agents - Implied Consent

Football agents regret to report that one of its promising players was assaulted whilst playing against for Oldham v Morecombe football club U 18s.

It was describe as a “sickening moment” a youth team footballer knocks out his opponent on the pitch.  The Mail Online states that “The sucker punch" – creating a disturbing audible moment of impact - sends Tuohy, who had his back turned, crashing to the turf and seemingly unconscious.”

In The Metro the incident is described as a “brutal act of unprovoked violence” on Saturday’s youth team match at Chapel Road.

It must be stresed that instructions at this time instructions are being obtained.

The Law and Assault in Football

As football agents and sports lawyers, it must be noted that to punch another on the pitch can be construed as an assault where Civil Damages for compensation can be made.  It can also amount to a criminal offence so the police can be called in.  The main differences between Civil Damages and Criminal Offences is that the former is simply a claim for compensation, whilst the latter can mean a jail sentence.

The Doctrine of Implied Consent

Football, like any contact sport, follows an implied consent between players and clubs that there is an “implied agreement” that there will be physical contact.  Without this implied consent, any contact can amount to an assault in law. But what amounts to “consent” is a question of fact that will be determined by the Courts or Sport’s Governing Body, in England and Wales The Football Association

Thus a genuine mis-timed tackle causing a broken leg to the opposition player is unlikely to be met with a claim for damages by the  player’s agents or lawyers or severe sanction by the Governing Body unless there is a history of serious indiscretions. 

The Doctrine does not extend to being punched!
Whilst there are grey areas in what can be construed as implied consent or simply a criminal act, certainly a punch to the head, can be construed as violent conduct giving rise to a criminal and civil proceedings.  No player has consented to being punched in the head.

The internal discipline of the Sport’s Governing Body will also be invoked.  The Callum McManaman tackle against Masssadio Haidara, his tackle was described as “late” and “high” but the referee did not produced an yellow card let alone a red. The referee did not see the incident but his assistant had seen the “foul” which meant that The Football Association could not retrospectively offer any punishment but this rule has now been removed and The Football Association can take retrospective action.

Serious Bodily Harm in Football

Attached to this short blog The FA’s handbook.  Page 363 deals with on field offences.  Where there is a sending off offence, the referee must submit a report to The Association by 12 noon the following day of the match.  A Law 12 offence has been committed and the Club will also be notified.  Any sending off is subject to at least one match suspension (p370) known as the “standard punishment” but if this is considered insufficient an appeal can be made to increase the sanction, in particular Law 12(2) Violent Conduct.  A charge of this type can be considered by the Sports Governing Body on video/DVD evidence alone. 


The Sports Governing Body punishement is limited to suspension of the player for a number of games and no other punishment shall apply. The player shall be suspended automatically from the Club and banned for the next three matches.  

Interestingly, in another recent on-field issue such as spitting, under Law 12(3) if a player is found guilty of spitting on another player, the suspension can be for six matches.  This may reflect the general “disgust” of spitting with players often preferring to be “punched” than “spat” on, see the recent

For a more informative read on this topic please see The Doctrine of Sporting Consent

The Footall Association Hand Book


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