Duty of care
Local law firm says sports clubs must remember duty of care as bad weather increases potential for dangerous tackles
A Knutsford law firm says bad weather could lead to an increase in injuries in winter sports, and is advising players to remember their duty of care to opponents.
Mace & Jones Personal Injury solicitor Jeremy Bradshaw said poor winter weather and substandard pitch conditions can lead to more sports injuries due to players making reckless tackles.
“Treacherous weather conditions can cause sports pitches to be a minefield for injuries and contribute to dangerous sliding tackles in winter sports such as football and rugby,” he said. “People who play these sports – as well as the clubs they represent – need to be aware of the duty of care they owe to other players.
“For injured players they need to know what measures to take should they be the target of a bad challenge in order to claim for personal injury. Clubs must ensure their team knows the boundaries of the law on the field of play and also be insured themselves, in case anyone takes legal action against them.”
“In professional terms personal injury cases are few and far between. However there have been cases, most recently in October the possibility that a case could be brought against Manchester City FC player Nigel de Jong over a tackle that broke another player’s leg. There was also a case when Middlesbrough FC lost a £3million claim after a young player’s career was ended after a dangerous tackle. If players and their clubs are not properly insured they could face extremely damaging financial losses where a career-threatening injury occurs.”
Mr Bradshaw said that in sports, there are three key points in personal injury.
- A challenge can still be deemed reckless or dangerous tackle even if not deliberate or malicious.
- The injured party must prove that the challenge was either reckless and / or dangerous.
- The injured party must have suffered a loss as a result of the challenge.
Mr Bradshaw said that very few successful claims are brought – particularly in amateur sport – due to a lack of evidence. “In the professional game there are often plenty of cameras present, so it is easier to reconstruct what has happened,” he said. “But even then, there are often differing opinions on whether or not the tackle came within the laws of the game.
“Personal injury claims are fairly rare considering how many people are actually involved in contact sports – both professional and amateur. In sports such as rugby and football there will always be a risk due to their physical nature, and maybe even more so as playing surfaces are subject to our winter weather, with ice and mud making playing conditions difficult. Even if a tackle is mistimed rather than malicious, if you can prove that it was dangerous and/or reckless and that you have suffered loss as a result, then you may be able to make a claim.
“The term ‘loss’ can mean in physical, financial or even mental terms – for example a broken bone, loss of earnings or anxiety and depression.
Mr Bradshaw added that there must be records of both the incident and the way it has impacted on the claimant.
“In amateur football too few referees produce reports in games, even when there has been a dangerous or tragic injury,” he said. “This is very surprising and if you are unfortunate enough to be injured playing sports then you must ensure that a referee or impartial organiser makes a report of the incident to the appropriate overseeing organisation. Without such independent supporting evidence it can be one person’s word and against another, with resultant difficulties in proving your claim.”
Mr Bradshaw said officials must also be fully up to date on the laws of their chosen game, as they too owe a duty to the players to manage the game correctly and can be sued if found to have breached that duty.
“For example, in a rugby scrum the rules state that there must always be three designated forwards in the front row who are trained specifically for that role. If a referee allows a scrum to go ahead without one or more of these designated players and the scrum results in an injury, the official can held as liable for any injuries sustained, as one such official was in 2003.
“There are many more examples in sport and it is down to each individual to make sure he or she plays or officiates the game following the laws and obeying the rules of conduct.”