Spectators have their own vital role to play in recreation, particularly in its sporting aspect, and it is hardly surprising that, over the years, the courts have had to take them into consideration when assessing the legal liabilities of promoters of recreation. The safety of spectators is obviously a vital priority and Parliament was forced to recognize this, in the wake of several sports stadium tragedies, by passing the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.
At the same time, no one concerned with the provision of leisure facilities can afford to overlook the legal rights of those who live nearby; they are just as entitled to protection from injury, whether it be from errant golf balls or incessant noise and disruption to their nervous systems. This chapter looks at both these aspects of the law in relation to leisure.
The law of contract governs not only the more obvious 'commercial' contracts which exist in sport (such as the contracts which professional footballers have with their clubs, which were examined in Chapter 2), but also the many and various arrangements under which people participate as spectators of sporting and other leisure activities.
In some cases, it is obvious that there must be some sort of 'contract', as for example where a football fan pays money and passes through the turnstile of the local football ground. In fact, whenever someone pays money to spectate, an increasingly common phenomenon in places such as swimming pools and squash courts, it is not difficult to anticipate that the law would regard the situation as a contractual one. What comes as a surprise to many is to learn that there is very often some sort of legal relationship created, even when the spectator is allowed in free of charge; one can say either that such a spectator enters under an implied contract with the organizer, or is allowed in as a 'licensee' (a word used here in a special, technical, legal sense). Either way, as a result, the organizer of the activity owes that spectator certain legal duties and the spectator must at least be taken to have agreed to behave.