Club Liability for Player Misconduct

Club Liability for Player Misconduct

A couple of recent high profile cases have highlighted a development in the law which could have serious consequences for semi-professional sport.

The first involved semi-professional rugby.  In 2005 Halifax and Redruth met in a rugby union fixture.  Their players were semi-professional having full-time employment in other fields.

After the referee had blown his whistle in the course of a “disagreement” which had occurred within the scrum, Mr Carol of Redruth punched Mr Gravel of Halifax.  Mr Gravel issued proceedings against his assailant and also against Redruth RFC.  He contended that Redruth Rugby Football Club was vicariously liable for the actions of Mr Gravel.

The Court of Appeal decided that the test of liability on the part of Redruth FC, the employer, for their employee’s actions was whether the punch thrown was so closely connected with Mr Carol’s employment by the rugby club that it was fair and just to hold the rugby club vicariously liable.  It decided that the connection was close “the melee being just the kind of thing that clubs would have expected to occur”.

Higher up the scale in professional football, a Manchester United reserve team player, aged 18, suffered the double fracture of his leg from which he failed to make a full recovery.  In this case, the footballer from Manchester United sued the opposition tackler and the opposing club.  The opposing club conceded liability for the negligence of its player.

The Court therefore had to consider what compensation should be granted.  Having heard extensive evidence as to what the future held for Mr Collet (the young Manchester United player) the court awarded over £450,000 for lost earnings to the date of the hearing and £3,000,854 for future lost earnings as a footballer.

It is reported that after the judgement in the Gravel case, liability insurers informed semi-professional rugby clubs that insurance policies they had in force would not cover them for vicarious liability of the type described above.  So semi-professional and full-time professional sports clubs must now ensure that they have employer’s liability insurance in place for contracted players.  Inevitably this will mean a higher level of expense for semi-professional sports clubs.

For further information contact Patrick Nelson on 01785 211411.

10 October 2008


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)