Chelsea Football Club –v- Hardiman [2019] 10 WLUK 100

Chelsea had taken action to prevent an alleged ticket tout from selling tickets to football matches at the Chelsea ground. It applied to court to continue the injunction which it had initially obtained without notice to the defendant. It also however applied to extend the scope of that order to prevent “waiting and loitering” within a certain distance of the club, at a nearby tube station and other roads in the vicinity within 48 hours of a football match.

The court agreed to continue the original injunction but refused to extend its scope as Chelsea had requested.

The judge’s rationale was that it was too difficult, in practice, for the defendant to know what activity was prohibited on the basis that it amounted to “waiting and loitering”. Any order in those terms put the defendant at risk of breaching the injunction inadvertently and thus being in contempt of court.

The court also concluded that the evidence put forward by Chelsea - of a single transaction near its ground – did not justify the order.

The general ban on “waiting and loitering” not linked to any specific activity was, said the judge, unnecessarily wide and had the potential to interfere with legitimate movement in the vicinity, which was not justified on the evidence.

Key points

  • This decision is another demonstration of the court’s concern to ensure that any injunction is carefully scoped. The extent of behaviour which could be categorised as unlawful and therefore prohibited must be abundantly clear.
  • It also reinforces the principle that any court which is asked to grant an interim injunction will wish to be satisfied that there is a real and imminent risk of unlawful conduct such as to justify the order.
  • The reservations expressed by the judge as to what amounts to unlawful “waiting and loitering” have echoes of the decision in Boyd v Ineos Upstream limited [2019] EWCA Civ 515. There the court refused to grant an injunction against harassment in circumstances where the distinction between conduct which was irritating and annoying -but lawful- and that which was oppressive and unlawful was uncertain.
  • It also follows hot on the heels of the decision in Canada Goose UK Retail Ltd v Persons Unknown (1) and PETA (2) 2019 EWHC 2459 (QB). That case emphasised the importance of being very clear about the nature of unlawful activity which was being carried out by unnamed individuals if an injunction was to be granted to limit the activities of “persons unknown”.
  • It is therefore further confirmation that, whilst the courts are willing to grant injunctions to preclude unlawful conduct, they will want to be satisfied that the scope of what is prohibited is justified and not so wide as to risk straying into activities which could, in fact, be lawful.