Written by: Mihir N Singh
In recent times, the emergence and growth in the sports Industry have been immense. Every association and federation has been heavily charging spectators, and there have been instances where the spectators have been unsatisfied with the service provided by the organizers of the event. The Spectators have been put at risk of being severely injured, but still haven’t been able to receive any legal aid from the Judicial system. The court of law does look into these matters of concern but the applicability of these laws has been ambiguous. The situation in India in one of the recent incidents, during a cricket match in Bangalore, a spectator’s nose was injured due to a ball that was struck into the air. This led to her being hospitalized and the question that arises here is, who should be held responsible for the injury or death of a spectator? The concerns with regard to the consumer and their legal remedy have been looked into in the blog.
Liability of the Sporting Organizers
The Associations or the Federations that conduct the sporting event do not stress the risks involved in that particular sport and claim the most common legal maxim i.e., Volenti Non-Fit Injuria which means when one consent to harm then he has no legal remedy for the legal damages from that particular incident. In the case of White v. Blackmore, it is significant because it involves the death of Mr. White at a Jalopy car race as a result of the careless design and installation of the ropes. About a third of a mile from where Mr. White was standing, a car slammed into some ropes. He was consequently hurled and launched 20 feet into the air, where he later perished from his injuries. Although Mr. White was a driver in the race, he was standing with his family between laps when the tragedy occurred. He agreed to an exclusion clause while signing up. Jalopy racing is risky, and the organizers disclaim any responsibility for any injuries, regardless of how they were caused, according to a sign at the grounds' entry. His widow filed a lawsuit against the event's organizer, who claimed that they were not liable and that Volenti non fit injuria did not apply. However, the defence of Volenti non fit injuria was unsuccessful since Mr White merely agreed to the danger of the Jalopy race and did not accept the risk of the careless building of the ropes. The Defendant (Organizers) was consequently found accountable. This hence proves that the Courts across the globe and in India have significantly established a precedent wherein, injury caused during the course of the game leading to the death of a spectator can hold the organizers liable for the same as no one can or does consent to death. However, the mere injury of a spectator during the course of a game cannot give the spectator the right to claim a legal remedy as they have consented to the risks involved in that particular game. This highlights the ambiguity in the uncodified laws in India which are to be looked at, to ensure that there is an equal and clear application of laws with regard to consumer protection across the world. The spectators are considered as ‘consumers’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 as stated in the definition under Section 2(7), wherein the consumer buys or avails goods for any sought of consideration, hence the consumer protection laws are applicable to the spectators of a tournament. One of the biggest issues with regard to the spectators is the unfulfillment of the required standards or not providing adequate facilities to the spectators i.e., Deficiency. Most of the time, spectators are not provided with basic facilities such as accessibility to washrooms, access for disabled people, Women's safety and security, etc. These measures are not taken into consideration by the organizers. Therefore, spectators may take necessary actions under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, for not providing or fulfilling the said standard set by the organizers or promised by them. The sporting events in India, especially sports like cricket, football and kabaddi have a huge fan base, and this creates an immense demand for these games in terms of tickets and physical attendance in stadiums. The Unfair Trade Practices that arise in these instances are the highest, wherein organizers tend to use unfair means to earn extra profits such as selling tickets at higher rates, pushing in people more than the capacity of the stadium, and promising facilities that will not be provided. Thus, such unfair practices in the realm of sports should be viewed accordingly in the eyes of the law. The consumer laws have now shifted to ‘Caveat Venditor’ which means “let the seller be aware”, implying that sellers should exercise their actions in accordance with the established law.
This blog aims to highlight the various loopholes and issues with regard to the protection of the spectators of a game and the legal implication of these events. Through this analysis, the law is largely in favour of these massive associations and federations that tend to escape through the exceptions of law as stated in the blog or have better financial capabilities in evading any or all sorts of penalties. It also highlights the unfair trade practices and deficiency of services which is the key issue in today’s world as the demand for the tickets and the game is high and the service that can be provided is very limited. This leads to organizers aiming at higher profits with insufficient facilities. Every spectator under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is protected and has the legal remedy to approach the consumer forum or the court of law at any instance of violation of their consumer right.
*The author is a law scholar from School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be)University.
(The image used here is for representative purposes only)
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2. Yashodhan K. Kharade, Sports Infrastructure: A Study of Sports Ecosystem in India, 22 THINK INDIA JOURNAL 1517 (2019).
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4. Applicability of Volenti Non Fit Injuria In Sports, https://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2038/Applicability-of-Volenti-Non-Fit-Inj uria-In-Sports.html (last visited Apr 9, 2023).
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