World Cup streakers facing heavy penalties

April 28, 2006

BERLIN, April 28 (Reuters) - Streakers in Germany not only risk sunburn to sensitive parts of their anatomy if they dart on to the pitch to interrupt soccer matches but also face increased fines following a ruling by a state court on Friday.

The court in the northern port city of Rostock upheld a 10,000 euros ($12,550) fine for damages against a streaker claimed by Hansa Rostock for an incident in 2003.

"The spectators enter an agreement when they arrive in a stadium that forbids them from going on to the playing field," said state court judge Hans-Georg Eckert.

"Thus, the defendants must pay the full cost of damages for violating that agreement."

The ruling is expected to have wide-reaching implications at stadiums in Germany, which hosts the World Cup finals from June 9 to July 9, for anyone running on the pitch -- with or without clothes.

Hansa Rostock had been fined 20,000 euros by the German Football Association (DFB) for lax security in 2003 when three streakers ran on to the pitch in two separate incidents during a home match against Hertha Berlin.

The club in turn demanded the damages from the streakers.

"I believe this decision will serve as a precedent for all soccer and other sports," said Hansa Rostock's lawyer Gunnar Kempf.

There were calls to clamp down on streaking after four spectators evaded stadium security and ran on to the pitch bearing messages on their body and clothing during the Confederations Cup in Germany last year.

The World Cup organising committee has considered tightening security and urged tougher penalties against offenders to exceed the 600 Swiss francs ($480) last year's violators faced.