An interesting Sports Law case has emerged within Ireland over the past few weeks. Reported by Mark Tighe in last week’s Sunday Times, 24-times capped Irish Scrum-Half, Tomas O’Leary, is currently suing the IRFU after suffered a training ground accident whilst preparing for a 2011 Six Nations fixture against England. The personal-injury claim was filed last week by Daly Derham Donnelly, O’Leary’s Cork solicitors. It is the first time a player has sued the IRFU over an injury in the professional era.
The accident occurred during a speed training session where he was towing a weighted sled with a bungee cable. The cable snapped and hit O’Leary in the left eye which resulted in him nearly losing the sight of this eye.
Having processed the claim through the personal Injuries Board, O’Leary has now filed a High Court action. The IRFU confirmed that player contracts were modified in 2008 to include a clause allowing players to sue the IRFU if injured by faulty training equipment.
The injury kept O’Leary out for the remainder of the season and he has since moved to London Irish from Munster, but has regularly been overlooked for the Irish National Side.
The IRFU have declined to comment on this case stating “This is a matter for the insurers, not the IRFU, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment” says Stephen McNamara, IRFU Director of Communications.
I’m posting this as I think it arises an interesting consideration for all Sports Practitioners. In most (if not all) professional sports, playing staff are becoming significantly more valuable (financially) year on year, so is this also putting “us” in a more vulnerable position with our employer’s prize assets? Might we see a time when players, or employers, would turn to sue a member of the support team, for an accident or even a case of judged malpractice?
I appreciate I’m opening a huge can of worms here, but it would be great to stimulate some thoughts and debate on what people think about this possible situation. Would the Personal Insurance cover for a member of the Performance Staff (S&C, Sports Science, Analysts, Medics etc) be enough to cover, say a player’s loss of earnings case for example? Or what if a major event (such as a prize boxing match) had to be cancelled at short notice due to a training accident?
Might this even deter the next generation of support staff coming through (how will they learn and make mistakes?) and could we even see our support work regressing in future years, due to the need to take only the safest of options and always err on the side of precaution? Who would determine if someone was adjudged to have performed a malpractice? Would this judgement have to come from within our own peer group? Will our respected fields continue to push the envelope and take risks, or will it be best to play safe and stick with what we know works, as it always has for us in the past, so we stagnate and never move forward?
Please let us know your thoughts…