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Assault & Battery in Sports

Battery is a tort of law and in a class known as “trespass to the person”.

These claims are often called “intentional torts”. Battery does require that a defendant be considered at law to be “at fault”.

Battery occurs because of their voluntary act by either intending physical contact to occur or that contact was made recklessly.

What is the meaning of battery in sports?

Battery in sports describes contact with another player intended to inflict harm which is intentional and outside what is normal expected in a contact sport. This can range from pushing or shoving to punches, kicks, or even using equipment as weapons. When you play contact sport you provide consent to physical contact as long as such contact is within the expected normal contact in such a sport. If such contact is outside the normally expected contact and done so intentionally then a battery may have taken place

Can an action done on a sport field have a legal consequences?

The answer is yes. Steve Rogers was a well-known Rugby League player, who had played for Australia and led his club team to grand final appearances. The opposition coaches and team had identified the player as a danger and suggested that his impact on the game needed to be minimised. In the opening minutes Mark Bugden struck Rogers in the head with his forearm breaking his jaw. Rogers successfully brought a battery case against Bugden and Bugden’s employer, the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs Club.

Whilst the tort of battery will on the face of it include any physical contact whilst playing sport, a claim can only be made where there is a “lack of consent” to that physical contact.

In the sporting context, a person who agrees to play a particular sport acknowledges and agrees to certain forms of bodily contact, usually within the defined rules of the sport and will have therefore given consent.

Not only is a player considered to have consented to contact within the rules of the sport but also implied consent to receive certain contact which may be outside the rules of the sport but what a player might reasonably expect during a game. For example a high tackle in rugby league is outside the rules of the sport but is reasonably expected and may occur in a fast paced game.

There are however limits to this implied consent of physical contact that is “ordinarily and reasonably to be contemplated as incidental to the sport”.

Deliberate infliction of injury

A reasonable player in sport does not consent to a deliberately inflected injury, especially if this is outside the rules. There are a number of cases where players have sued opposition players where physical violence was applied in contravention of the rules of the game by an opposing player who intends to cause physical violence or knows, or ought to know that such harm is likely as a result of his actions. Such as striking a face of an opponent with an elbow. This player may well be found liable in law to pay compensation.

Other potential defences

Self-defence is a defence to the tort of battery and in the sporting context could be raised where one player was about to punch another and it could be justified in making some form of bodily contacting so as to avoid that punch.

Vicarious liability

Vicarious liability is where another party may be held responsible for the actions of a player in assaulting another player, this usually occurs in an employee/employer context. In professional competition it may be held that a players club as the employer is vicariously liable to pay for some or all of the compensation as they are engaging in an act which is in the course of their employment.

It may be possible that a sporting association may also be liable but this would depend on the particular circumstances and if the association condoned the conduct of the player.

However in amateur level of competition this is unlikely to apply and the only viable defendant is the person who committed the act of violence.

You would need to sue that individual personally to recover any compensation payable.

What are the Consequences of Battery in Sports involving Physical Contact?

Battery, unlawful physical contact meant to harm, isn’t just a being a bad sport in NSW – it comes with consequences.

  • Sporting Body Penalties: Referees penalize battery with fouls, dismissals, and suspensions, impacting the game and the team.
  • Civil Lawsuits: Injured players can sue for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Criminal Charges: Serious battery can lead to criminal convictions including fines or imprisonment.

Understanding these legal repercussions encourages fair play and a safe, competitive environment for NSW sports.

Garling & Co Lawyers

Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law approved by New South Wales Law Society. He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia. Matthew is also a member of...
Lisa L.
05:18 13 Jul 24
Outstanding service and commitment to my case was delivered from the first point of contact right until the end of my successful case.Highest recommendations to the team at Garling and Co. Matthew... got me an excellent result and was available and informative throughout the entire foreign process of legal proceedings. He was wonderful and so was his team.If i could rate higher than 5 stars i would!read more
J B
07:12 02 Jul 24
Matthew Garling and all of the team were extremely professional and supportive throughout what was a very long and arduous CTP battle. I am happy with the result and feel that their fees were fair... and well deserved.read more
Nelson B.
02:11 30 Jun 24
Professional, prompt & honest service
Brad M.
02:19 28 Jun 24
I worked with Garling & Co for 3+ years, the team has been incredible and I could not have been happier with Kerry's support and the results produced!I highly recommend choosing them as your... representatives!!read more
Ray H.
07:33 13 Jun 24
Matthew Garling and Team are kind, patient, polite, professional, empathetic and efficient. I was treated terribly by the at fault insurer. Garling and Co. had my back. Matthew gently and patiently... kept me up to speed on all the steps to go through. From my personal experience I recommend these guys. They are safe hands. Thank you team.read more
Jo L.
05:58 07 May 24
So very impressed with the professional team who looked after me throughout the last 4 and 1/2 years. A special mention to Kerry and Nathan who navigated each request to fight for my right to gain... access to further treatments and physio and to ensure medical treatment would be covered moving forward. I was so grateful I could hand it all over to you and not have to go through this very challenging time without your support.I thank you for the compassion you have provided to me, from the first contact with Matthew and Natasha, to finalisation with Kerry and Nathan.I highly recommend the team at Garling and Co for any third party compensation claims. You are in good hands with them all.read more
Linda O.
21:53 06 May 24
Emma, Rebecca and the team at Garling and Co have worked diligently throughout my workers compensation claim. The level of professionalism, support and communication has been faultless. Of particular... note has been the sensitivity displayed to me throughout the lengthy process. Worker’s compensation claims are complex and not easy to navigate, particularly when you are unwell. I do not hesitate to recommend Garling and Co to help you find a way through this otherwise unfathomable system.read more
Keith H.
20:51 23 Apr 24
After my case stalled with another firm, I decided to give Matthew Garling a call. He took my case and not only won, but achieved an outcome that far exceeded my expectations. This firm is the best... in the business in my opinion and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.read more
Anthony T.
00:50 16 Apr 24
Thank you Matthew and his team who guided me through the legal process, a truly positive experience with total professionalism.
Mikaele N.
03:01 15 Apr 24
Garling &Co Lawyers were awesome, I called every compensation law firm and was told that I couldn't claim for compensation.The whole experience and process was simple and stress free.Mr Matthew... Garling and Allison deserve an accolades for the very best in client service. I would highly recommend their service to anyone.read more
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Lisa L.
05:18 13 Jul 24
Outstanding service and commitment to my case was delivered from the first point of contact right until the end of my successful case.Highest recommendations to the team at Garling and Co. Matthew... got me an excellent result and was available and informative throughout the entire foreign process of legal proceedings. He was wonderful and so was his team.If i could rate higher than 5 stars i would!read more
J B
07:12 02 Jul 24
Matthew Garling and all of the team were extremely professional and supportive throughout what was a very long and arduous CTP battle. I am happy with the result and feel that their fees were fair... and well deserved.read more
Nelson B.
02:11 30 Jun 24
Professional, prompt & honest service
Brad M.
02:19 28 Jun 24
I worked with Garling & Co for 3+ years, the team has been incredible and I could not have been happier with Kerry's support and the results produced!I highly recommend choosing them as your... representatives!!read more
Ray H.
07:33 13 Jun 24
Matthew Garling and Team are kind, patient, polite, professional, empathetic and efficient. I was treated terribly by the at fault insurer. Garling and Co. had my back. Matthew gently and patiently... kept me up to speed on all the steps to go through. From my personal experience I recommend these guys. They are safe hands. Thank you team.read more
Jo L.
05:58 07 May 24
So very impressed with the professional team who looked after me throughout the last 4 and 1/2 years. A special mention to Kerry and Nathan who navigated each request to fight for my right to gain... access to further treatments and physio and to ensure medical treatment would be covered moving forward. I was so grateful I could hand it all over to you and not have to go through this very challenging time without your support.I thank you for the compassion you have provided to me, from the first contact with Matthew and Natasha, to finalisation with Kerry and Nathan.I highly recommend the team at Garling and Co for any third party compensation claims. You are in good hands with them all.read more
Linda O.
21:53 06 May 24
Emma, Rebecca and the team at Garling and Co have worked diligently throughout my workers compensation claim. The level of professionalism, support and communication has been faultless. Of particular... note has been the sensitivity displayed to me throughout the lengthy process. Worker’s compensation claims are complex and not easy to navigate, particularly when you are unwell. I do not hesitate to recommend Garling and Co to help you find a way through this otherwise unfathomable system.read more
Keith H.
20:51 23 Apr 24
After my case stalled with another firm, I decided to give Matthew Garling a call. He took my case and not only won, but achieved an outcome that far exceeded my expectations. This firm is the best... in the business in my opinion and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.read more
Anthony T.
00:50 16 Apr 24
Thank you Matthew and his team who guided me through the legal process, a truly positive experience with total professionalism.
Mikaele N.
03:01 15 Apr 24
Garling &Co Lawyers were awesome, I called every compensation law firm and was told that I couldn't claim for compensation.The whole experience and process was simple and stress free.Mr Matthew... Garling and Allison deserve an accolades for the very best in client service. I would highly recommend their service to anyone.read more
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
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