Tag Archives: cricket

Should pitch inspections be kicked into the long grass?: Sutton v. Syston Rugby Football Club Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1182

October 31, 2011

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The case concerned a 16yr old rugby player injured during a touch rugby game at his local club in Leicester, UK. Perhaps surprisingly for a rugby negligence judgment, the case did not concern injuries from any collapsing scrums, but rather concerned a knee injury from a collision with a semi-buried obstacle.

Read the BBC news report or the full case transcript.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

On 2nd July 2007, midway through the training session at Syston RFC Ltd, the three rugby coaches changed the session from Age Groups practice to a mixed-age “tag” rugby match involving U16 & U17 players on each team.

About 30mins into the match, the claimant received the ball and dived for the touch-line to score. Unfortunately for the claimant, hidden in the grass at the time was part of a plastic cricket boundary marker which gashed him, causing severe and permanent knee injuries. He claims £54,000 for the club’s negligence in failing to inspect the pitch and to discover this stub [3].

The Club admitted a duty of care to the Claimant under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to “take such care, as was reasonable in the circumstances of the case, to see that Mr Sutton (and their other visitors) would be reasonably safe in using the Club’s premises.” [5]

They also admitted that no general inspection of the pitch had taken place before the match and that in this respect they had failed. The issues between the parties can be distilled into two main questions:

1)    What was the appropriate standard to judge the quality of the inspection

2)    Whether this inspection would have revealed the stub (causation)

 

INSPECTION STANDARD

The starting point is do clubs have a duty to conduct an inspection of their facilities? The simply answer is yes. Even if the rugby club had hired its pitch out and the obstacle in question had been placed there by an unknown cricketing third party who may have owed an obligation to “remove all traces of their presence… that does not of itself delegate or discharge the rugby club’s duty as occupiers of the Club premises and towards players using the pitch for the different purpose of a later rugby match. [§33]”

So what is the nature of this non-delegable duty? Effectively, Lord Justice Longmore expressly approved the guidelines from the National Governing Body for the sport – the Rugby Football Union (RFU). These guidelines provided a safety check-list to check the ground for foreign objects “such as glass, concrete, large stones and dog waste”.

Nothing controversial so far. The crux of the case comes in the decision how this inspection is to be consulted. This finally arrived in:

Before a game or training session, a pitch should be walked over “at a reasonable walking pace” by a coach, match organiser, someone on their behalf, or by multiple persons inspecting pre-agreed areas [13].

In laying down this standard, Longmore LJ was at pains to note that the standard of the inspection should be the same whether the activity was a training session or match and that all areas of the pitch should be treated by the same standard, particularly given that the danger to be avoided (falling into foreign objects) could happen during any part of the pitch. No doubt in reaching this latter decision, the learned judge was particularly influenced by the recent World Cup match where the English players were never in any risk should any foreign objects have been buried in the French touchline!

This test therefore rejects the earlier first instance decision [11]:

“While not required to investigate below every blade of grass it seems to me a slightly more careful degree of attention needed to be paid [to] the touch-down ends of the pitch where players are to be expected to dive or fall onto the ground. [§34]”

 

WOULD AN INSPECTION HAVE REVEALED THE STUB?

Sadly for the claimant, this is where his case tripped up. Once Longmore LJ had applied the balance of probabilities test from Fairchild v. Glenhaven Funderal Service [2003] 1 AC 32, the Court of Appeal was unsure that the stub could have been discovered [17]. In particular, the Court noted that the grass was ‘lush’, ‘below the level of the grass’, only one witness actually saw the stub, and it was not immediately visible on a casual inspection. Given these comments, the Court concluded that a reasonable walk-over inspection of the pitch would not have revealed the stub, and therefore the claim fails [17].

 

WIDER IMPLICATIONS

An interesting footnote to the case is that at times the Court of Appeal was very keen to limit the implications of its decision for sports. In particular, at [13] Sutton becomes the latest in a string of the reported sports cases to evoke s.1 of the Compensation Act, and the first to be applied to a regular ‘club’ environment as opposed to ‘casual or one-off’ sessions (Reynolds, Uren, Harris, Poppleton).

1 Deterrent effect of potential liability

A court considering a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty may, in determining whether the defendant should have taken particular steps to meet a standard of care (whether by taking precautions against a risk or otherwise), have regard to whether a requirement to take those steps might–

(a) prevent a desirable activity from being undertaken at all, to a particular extent or in a particular way, or

(b) discourage persons from undertaking functions in connection with a desirable activity.

 Longmore LJ in concluding was also at pains to highlight that the Court “must not be too astute to impose duties of care which would make rugby playing as a whole more subject to interference from courts than it should be” [18]

I suppose this begs the obvious question, when should courts interfere?

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IPL postponed

March 13, 2009

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Source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/7942095.stm

We reported earlier this week that the Indian Cricket League has had to be postponed until later in the year due to the credit crunch, well now it seems that the same fate has befallen the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Indian officials have announced today that because the IPL dates (10 April – 24 May), clash with National elections in the country (16 April – 13 May), the government has said it will not have enough security officials to guarantee player safety during this time. Instead, the IPL will have to move its playing schedule (after the government refused to move its elections!) and new dates for the competition should be published shortly.

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ICC Stumped over ICL row

March 10, 2009

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Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/7902848.stm; http://www.smh.com.au/news/sport/cricket/pakistan-court-suspends-ban-on-rebel-icl-players/2009/02/03/1233423175195.html ; http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/feb/12/indian-cricket-league-twenty20-cancelled

 

Looks like the row between the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is set to rumble on. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has failed to broker a deal between the two sides and it is now down to the ICC Board meeting in April in Dubai to reach a solution.

 

The row stems over recognition of Twenty20 competitions and in particular the BCCI’s refusal to allow the ICL to have “unofficial cricket status” as it is a rival tournament to the Indian Premier League. (The ICL was created by Subhash Chandra (founder of satellite channel – Zee TV) after his bids for Indian cricket rights were constantly rejected). The BCCI has even gone so far as to issue a life ban to any Indian player competing in the ICL.

 

While the Pakistan Cricket Board, has taken a similar stance and banned 19 Pakistani players from playing in the domestic Pakistan league after they agreed to play in the ICL, the provincial Sindh high court has now overturned the ban. The court’s ruling does not apply to International team selection however.

 

The ICL was due to start this month, however the global economic crisis has forced the tournament to be postponed, possibly until November.

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Eden Park – but for how much longer?

February 19, 2009

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Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/rugby_union/article5407821.ece

The owners of Eden Park, Auckland are redeveloping and upgrading the capacity of the stadium from 47,500 to 60,000 in preparation for hosting the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup. It was reported this week however that there is a shortfall of £4.6 million on the budget and that consultants in Melbourne and London were looking into various commercial opportunities, including selling the naming rights to the stadium, to make up the money.

Any suggestions for names?

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Controversial 2006 cricket match a win after all

February 11, 2009

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The result of the controversial 2006 Oval Test between England and Pakistan has been switched back to an England win by the game’s world governing body. The match was originally awarded to England by forfeit when the Pakistan team delayed play after being accused of ball-tampering by the umpires. Last July, the International Cricket Council changed the result to a draw, but the ICC board decided to reverse that decision at a meeting in Perth, Australia on Sunday. It means that the series result will once again appear as a 3-0 England victory in the record books.

ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, said the decision ensured “the integrity of the game”. He added: “After reconsidering that match, taking into account the views of the MCC,  and some of the legal opinions we’ve got, the board was pretty unanimous in upholding the original umpires’ decision.

The original incident occurred on the fourth day of the match in August 2006 when on-field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove awarded England five penalty runs after ruling that the Pakistan team had tampered with the ball to help it swing. Pakistan initially refused to resume play after tea and by the time captain Inzamam-ul-Haq led his players out of the dressing room, the umpires had already called the game off and awarded it to England, the first time a Test has ever been won by forfeit. Inzamam was subsequently cleared of the ball-tampering charge by an ICC tribunal, but banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to resume play. Pakistan, meanwhile, blamed Hair for the whole affair and he was dropped from the ICC’s elite umpiring panel in November 2006. He responded by taking the ICC to an industrial tribunal, alleging racial discrimination, but withdrew the allegation after a week of evidence and the case collapsed. Pakistan later agreed to play a Twenty20 match in England in 2012 and waive their fee for that match by way of compensation for the loss of the final day’s play of the Oval Test. Hair was restored to the ICC panel in July last summer but only stood in two Tests before announcing his retirement in order to take up the post of executive officer of the New South Wales Umpires and Scorers Association.

The ICC’s original decision to change the result of the game to a draw was condemned at the time by the MCC, the guardians of the laws of cricket, who accused the governing body of setting a “very dangerous precedent”.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/7863464.stm

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Mohammad Asif to appeal drugs ban

February 11, 2009

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Pakistan seam Bowler, Mohammad Asif has been handed a one-year ban by an Indian Premier League (IPL) drugs tribunal after Asif tested positive for the banned steroid Nandrolone last may. The ban will commence from Sept 22, 2008 as that was the date on which the IPL had imposed the suspension order.

 

Asif plans to appeal against this decision and is reported as saying: “”I didn’t take any banned substances intentionally. I don’t want to carry the stigma of having been found guilty of taking banned substances” instead blaming Keratyl eye drops, prescribed for an inflammatory condition, as the reason for the adverse test.

The appeal looks likely to be based on the fact that the B sample (which also tested positive for the substance) apparently had different levels of Nandrolene in the urine to the A sample. 

The Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Haroon Lorgat commented that: “As an international governing body, the ICC maintains a zero tolerance in the area of doping,” and asked all member federations to ban Asif from playing official cricket for the duration of the suspension.

The Pakinan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt also seemed to suggest that a permanent exile from cricket was not an option: “Once the ban is over we will consider him and also think about giving him a central contract,” the PCB

This is not Asif’s first offence. In October 2006, he tested positive for Nandrolone in an out-of-competition test conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (although the one-year ban handed to him was subsequently overturned on appeal after he claimed he had not knowingly taken the substance).

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/cricket/7848845.stm; http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090211/SPORT/548262420/1004

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Because nobody knows who did it, i’ll sue you all!!!

January 19, 2009

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Newspapers report that four cricket teams are being sued in negligence for an alleged injury to a parent hit on the head by a cricket ball at Ilford Cricket Club.

At the end of the session, the mother of one of the cricketers apparently walked into the middle of the pitch to talk to the umpire to see how her son had done, when she was hit by a cricket ball from the teams warming up. Because her back was turned she did not know which team hit the ball towards her, so she is suing all of the teams present in the room on a no-win, no-fee basis!

Source: Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/4269880/Cricket-teams-face-legal-bill-after-mother-hit-on-head-with-ball.html

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