Litigation Recent Decisions 14/04/98

Football club's duty to player

Kieron Brady v (1) Sunderland Association Football Club Ltd (2) Leslie Howard Boobis, FRCS (3) Dr Simon James Paul England (1998)

QBD (Buckley J) 2/4/98

The plaintiff was a highly promising young football player contracted to the first defendant, Sunderland Association Football club Ltd. He experienced problems with his right leg, which led to him being taken off during a match on 30 November 1992. He was seen by the club's sports therapist, Mr Smelt, who referred him to Dr Crummie, who was the honorary club doctor. He diagnosed a likely vascular problem and referred him to Mr Boobis, a vascular surgeon, the second defendant. The plaintiff underwent several operations on his leg but the outcome was not sufficiently successful to enable him to pursue his career as a professional footballer. The plaintiff alleged negligence and breach of contract against the club and negligence against Mr Boobis, the second defendant, and the third defendant, a radiologist. The present hearing was concerned solely with the alleged breach of duty by the club and the other issues were adjourned. Under the terms of his contract with the club the plaintiff was specifically required to report any incapacity or sickness, to submit promptly to medical examinations and to undergo, at no expense to the player, such treatment as the medical advisers of the club prescribed. The club was required to arrange such treatment promptly and ensure it was undertaken and completed, keeping a record of complaints of incapacity and so on. The plaintiff alleged that the club had failed properly to heed or investigate obvious physical problems and/or complaints and refer him to a doctor, instead putting such complaints down to an attitude problem. A careful examination of his history would have revealed that the pain was associated with exercise rather than trauma and such symptoms should have been referred to a doctor as the club therapist was not, and did not hold himself out as, competent to treat them. A referral to a doctor would have led to a diagnosis at a time when treatment would have been successful. The club denied these allegations, in particular that it was, or ought to have been, aware of any vascular problem before 30 November 1992. Both sides accepted that the club had a duty in tort and contract to take reasonable care for plaintiff's well-being.