Liability of a spectator for damages against the club

The VII Civil Senate affirmed the obligation of the spectator of a football match to reimburse the organising club for the association fine paid by the club due to the ignition of a firecracker by the spectator.


The plaintiff operates the professional football section of 1. FC Köln. It is claiming damages from the defendant for the detonation of a firecracker at a home match in the RheinEnergieStadion in the 2nd Bundesliga against SC Paderborn 07 on 9 February 2014.

During the second half, the defendant detonated a firecracker, which is subject to the Explosives Act due to its explosive energy, and threw it from the upper tier of the North Stand to the lower tier, where it detonated and injured seven spectators.

Due to this incident and four other previous incidents at other matches of the applicant's professional team, the Sports Court of the German Football Association (DFB) imposed an association fine on the applicant. (DFB) imposed an association fine on the plaintiff, consisting, among other things, of a fine of € 50,000 and the probationary condition to use a further € 30,000 for projects and measures aimed at preventing violence and identifying specific perpetrators at the plaintiff's football matches.

The plaintiff paid the fine. She demands compensation from the defendant in the amount of € 30,000.

Course of the process:

The Regional Court upheld the action. On the defendant's appeal, the Higher Regional Court dismissed the action. The Higher Regional Court was of the opinion that the defendant had violated his duties of conduct under the spectator contract by igniting and throwing the firecracker. This had also resulted in the DFB imposing the fine. However, the necessary connection of responsibility was lacking. This was because the imposition of the association fine was no longer subject to the protective purpose of the duties violated by the defendant. The ban on setting off firecrackers in the stadium served to protect human health. However, with regard to the damage asserted here, the risk created by the plaintiff's submission to the rules of the DFB, that the club had to assume responsibility for sporting offences committed by its supporters and could accordingly be punished within the framework of the association, had materialised.

The decision of the Federal Supreme Court:

The plaintiff's appeal, which was allowed by the Higher Regional Court, led to the reversal of the appeal ruling.

The Federal Supreme Court has ruled that every spectator has a duty of conduct not to disturb the conduct of the football match. If he violates this by igniting and throwing a firecracker, he is liable for the resulting damage and must compensate for it. This also applies to a fine imposed on the club by the DFB because of the incident. It is not a damage caused only accidentally by the conduct and no longer intrinsically related to it. Rather, it is imposed precisely because of the spectator's disturbance. The rules of the association, like the obligations of the spectator contract, also served to prevent disturbances of the game.

The Federal Supreme Court referred the case back to the Higher Regional Court for a new hearing and decision so that it could examine the further prerequisites of the claim for damages.

Judgment of the BGH of 22 September 2016 - VII ZR 14/16

Lower courts:

Cologne Regional Court - Judgment of 8 April 2015 - 7 O 231/14

Cologne Higher Regional Court - Judgment of 17 December 2015 - 7 U 54/15


Source: Press release of the BGH


Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2016

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law