Crime and Sport

(2016) 133 South African Law Journal 271

15 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2016 Last revised: 20 Oct 2016

See all articles by Miles Jackson

Miles Jackson

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 22, 2016


This article addresses the relationship between on-field violence and the criminal law. Of course, in many sports, contact that would ordinarily give rise to criminal liability is not unlawful; consent renders the application of force lawful. There are, however, limits to sporting consent. At present, the position in South African law as to the outer boundaries of sporting consent is unclear, leaving the legal position of participants, governing bodies, and authorities uncertain. With a view to remedying this problem, this article draws on comparative case law and scholarship to construct a test for criminal liability for on-field violence. Starting from a strong presumption against the criminal law, this test sets out a number of relevant factors. Thereafter, it considers the role of prosecutorial discretion in cases of this kind, as well as the interaction between the criminal law and internal disciplinary regimes. Finally, the article reflects on the role of moral luck in criminal prosecutions arising from on-field violence. Participants — both professional and amateur — engaging in violent conduct run the risk of criminal sanction — with all of the legal, professional, and cultural consequences it entails.

Keywords: Assault, sports law, consent, moral luck

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Miles, Crime and Sport (April 22, 2016). (2016) 133 South African Law Journal 271. Available at SSRN:

Miles Jackson (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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