Comments made by lawyer Sergei Zakharov to an article titled “Football - no smoking”

8 October 2011

In the near future managers of the Football Union of Russia intend to protect fans from their addiction, by setting a veto on smoking on grand stands during matches. Now, during the matches of Zenit, smoking is permitted everywhere, except family sector. However, not everybody is satisfied with this small restriction: one of active supporters of smoking, deprived of his permanent ticket for numerous violations of the rules, intends to sue the St.-Petersburg football club.

Journalist Konstantin Belfor is going to file a claim against Zenit FC. As he confessed to a reporter of “Fontanka”, he uses to smoke cigars during matches. Attendants and security workers have warned him several times, but when he asked them to show a document containing the respective obligatory norm, they left him alone. Such situation continued for several matches, and on September, 24, he was unable to enter the stadium: his permanent ticket was invalidated. He purchased an ordinary ticket for the following match, started smoking and was removed from the stadium.”

Zenit made an official statement about this incident, where actions of attendants were explained by the nature of the “children” (aka “family”) sector, where the disgraced spectator smoked a cigar: “Employees of the club together with stadium workers have carried out preventive actions for several months. Following these preventive measures, warnings were issued to 19 fans, most of whom decided to give up smoking... However, during the match against Dinamo from Bryansk, a fan at the stadium, which has previously ignored several warnings, continued to using foul language and smoking a cigar “children” sector. As a result of his behaviour, attendants were bound to remove him from the sector. Upon studying all circumstances of the incident, Zenit FC decided to invalidate the permanent ticket of the infringer till the end of season 2011/2012”.

Haze-covered discrimination

The club refers to current Rules of behavior for spectators which forbid smoking in places “where smoking is prohibited by Zenit FC. A similar norm is contained in the rules of “Petrovsky” stadium. Konstantin Belfor does not deny that he read this document when he purchased the permanent ticket, still, he believes that his rights were violated: “The rules do not specify any procedure used to determine places where smoking is forbidden. An informal warning is not unlike a slogan written on a fence… What I’d like to challenge is not the club’s right to set the rules which contain a ban for smoking, but rather the selectivity of these rules, which allows them to take decisions which prejudice the rights of fans,” said Konstantin Belfor.

The football club cannot understand such logic of the fan. Dmitry Zimmerman, deputy head of Zenith press-service explained to the reporter of “Fontanka”, that “He purchased a permanent ticket to special “family sector”. i.e., a sole place at the stadium where smoking is forbidden! He was repeatedly given warnings, but ignored them.”

The interviewed lawyers were also surprised by behavior of the fan. and do not believe that his rights were violated. Sergei Zakharov from Vertikal lawyer’s office reminded that the federal law “On restriction of tobacco smoking” prohibits smoking in closed sports facilities, while administration of the stadium is entitled to use other restrictions at open sports facilities (including the “children's sector”).

Darya Pyatkova the lawyer of business practice at Rightmark group agreed with him: “If a fan has purchased the ticket and has read the rules, he automatically agreed that his “right to smoking” will not be violated. There is no impairment of consumer legitimate interests. This being said, any places where smoking prohibited, should be clearly marked (inscriptions, boards, notices by attendants). The stadium administration is entitled to set the procedure used to notify spectators. If a fan purchased the permanent ticket to “family sector”, he was sure to know about restriction of smoking in this sector,” said she.

However, the lawyers disagreed as to the right. “Relationship between the club and its fans are based of the usual civil contract. Each party of such contract should observe their respective obligations and be liable for infringement of these obligations,” stated Darya Pyatkova. “The rules provide for sanctions to be imposed on fans, which consist in suspension or cancellation of the permanent tickets without compensation of the ticket cost, therefore there is no infringement as well. If a consumer deems contractual provisions as onerous ones, he can demand to change or terminate the contract in a judicial proceeding.”

At the same time, Sergei Zakharov reminded that subject to the Civil code of the R F the contractor is only entitled to withdraw from a contract provided the customer is fully compensated for his losses. In this case the contract is characterized by long term, stage-by-stage performance, and the respective service was not rendered in full, so any refusal to return the part of money is unlawful. The above conclusions made by the lawyer are confirmed by extensive court practice of the Rospotrebnadzor (in relation to travel agencies, mobile operators, etc.).

However, according to Dmitry Zimmerman, the football club is willing to reimburse the ticket cost to Konstantin Belfor. Still, the disgraced fan does not intend to ask for money: “I am not going to strive for cancellation of club’s decision to establish non-smoking zones at the stadium. I rather want that the court obliges the club to enforce such decisions using technical methods instead of administrative,” said Konstantin Belfor to the reporter of “Fontanka”.

In favor of healthy lifestyle

All the non-smoking fans are likely to support the position adopted by management of Zenit. The point is, they are compelled to buy expensive tickets to “family” sector so as to avoid inhaling the smoke. The club cannot divide all the stands and to assign separate zones for smokers\nonsmokers in each sector (i.e., guest, fan, VIP, media, etc. sectors) due to limited size of the stadium. As explained Dmitry Zimmerman, “The new stadium will contain more sectors and we’ll be able to assign separate zones for fans.”

However, Zenit fans which love to smoke may fail to survive into the opening of the new arena: in the end of August, the Football Union of Russia announced plans to put a ban on smoking during all the matches held under its aegis. Separate zones shall be provided for those itching to smoke (whether it will be sectors or just “smoking-rooms” is yet to be announced). No final decision is made in the matter.

One should note, that imposing such restrictions, and sometimes more severe ones, is a trend in the football world: smoking is completely prohibited at stadiums of France, Sweden, Greece, Great Britain, and at many sports arenas in Germany, England, Holland, Ukraine and other countries. By the end of September, Camp Nou (Barcelona), the largest stadium of Europe and home stadium of Barcelona FC, will join them as well.

The members of Russian parliament are also “up-and-doing”: the bill introduced in the State Duma almost a year ago is restricting smoking in the open physical education and sports organizations and sports facilities (except where permission signs are displayed). However, the government of Russia considered adoption of such law inexpedient.

Pyotr Zykin, “” 

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