Injury time

Andrew Tucker assesses the steps that professional and amateur players can take if their careers are cut short by a badly-timed tackle

Just days before the big World Cup kick-off, former Sheffield Wednesday player Ian Nolan was suing Tottenham Hotspur and their former defender Justin Edinburgh for compensation, claiming that an injury caused by Edinburgh's tackle during a 1998 league match damaged his career and limited his earning power.
Recent research shows that professional footballers lose an average of 24 days a year through injury, costing English clubs more than £40m each season.
Injuries among amateur players are equally expensive, with NHS treatments for injured sports players costing around £500m annually.
But for players of Michael Owen's skill, for example, each leg is worth millions of pounds – to him, to his club and to his sponsors. So if he was injured in a bad tackle during the World Cup and his career came to a premature end, how would he recoup current and future loss of revenue?
Causation, liability and jurisdiction
First, there is the issue of causation: How did the tackle cause injury and was it intended to injure? There is then the liability issue: Should the player causing the damage, or the team for which he plays, compensate the injured player?
Injuries occurring in foreign jurisdictions bring further complications: What happens if an English forward is injured by a German defender in Japan? Where could the case be heard? Usually jurisdiction would lie in Japan where the incident happened. Although it could be in the domicile of the defendant – so, if the German culprit lived in France because he played for Marseilles, he could potentially be sued in France. But as his national team, for which he was playing when he committed the foul, is based in Germany, the action could also be pursued there.
These general principles concerning forum apply in many countries, but not all. Therefore, when selecting the forum of choice, the 'local' law requires careful examination.
The rules applied by the country of choice to applicable law are a further complication. Some countries would apply Japanese law to liability but local law to the assessment of damages.
Negligence or a criminal injury?
A bad tackle may be negligent or, in extreme cases, a criminal injury.
If the opposing player could be proven to have intended to injure or was reckless to the possibility of that outcome, there may be criminal liability. This is a question for the prosecuting authority of the country where the foul was committed.
Negligence would apply to a tackle that is executed to a standard below that which a player might reasonably expect, and which unintentionally results in injury. The team would also be liable, vicariously, for the negligence of the employee (the player in question). This may not be so if there was intent to injure, which may also negate the insurance teams that carry against this risk.
The injured player can seek compensation from his opponent or his opponent's team or from a criminal injuries compensation scheme.
If the player was British and he was to claim via a criminal injuries scheme, then – if reciprocal agreements exist with the UK – the claim could be brought before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), as would be the case for any member of the public injured abroad in similar circumstances.
In a civil claim, his club, which pays his wages, or his country – which may have agreed to reimburse his club the wages payable during any period of rehabilitation – may wish to recover the outlay.
In any such claim, what evidence would be required?
A police prosecution would not be required for a successful criminal claim, nor would the tackle have to lead to the defender being sent off for a civil claim, although both would assist.
Video evidence of a tackle that took a player out of the World Cup would back up the claim, and the expert views of players and coaches, who can discern the difference between a badly executed tackle and one that was properly executed, would be crucial.
For a criminal injury claim to succeed it would need to be proven that the tackle was intended to injure the player.
Amateur players insure against injury
Many clubs/associations have a separate regime of insurance. Among English amateur organisations, both Kent and Middlesex county football associations, for example, have established compulsory insurance schemes for their clubs. Personal injury insurance premiums of around £40 a season for an adult club and £20 for a youth club are in place.
In the event of permanent disablement the policies would typically pay between £2,000 and £20,000, with players also receiving between £10 and £100 a week if they were unable to work, as well as help with specialist medical care.
Obviously far higher levels of compensation would be awarded should a career-ending tackle take place in this year's Fifa World Cup.
But whatever the outcome of the final in Yokohama, the players can rest assured that their personal injury lawyers will be able to recover lost income through one of a myriad routes.
Andrew Tucker is a partner at Irwin Mitchell

History-making injury claims

First settlement of professional injury claim
The very first case of a professional footballer successfully claiming compensation for a career-ending tackle took place in 1997 when former Sheffield Wednesday defender Ian Knight settled out of court with Chester City.
Irwin Mitchell represented Knight in this groundbreaking claim.
The claim related to a tackle made in an FA Cup fourth round replay in 1987 at Hillsborough when Chester's Gary Bennett tackled Knight so forcefully that Knight's leg was shattered in seven places.
Witnesses at the game saw bone protruding from Knight's leg and they saw that grass had lodged inside Knight's broken bone. Surgeons who happened to be watching the match in the stands thought the injury would result in amputation.
Although he did play again, Knight never fully regained form and his career path was terminated.
The sides settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
At the time, Bennett was not even booked for the tackle.
Dyer threatened to sue
When Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer was stretchered off in the last game of the 2001/2 season it was reported that he threatened to sue Southampton defender Tahar El Khalej if the tackle meant Dyer could not represent England in the World Cup.
Certainly Dyer's advisers sought legal advice about a possible case against El Khalej, whose tackle damaged Dyer's knee ligaments. Dyer's agent Jonathan Barnett told the Daily Express: “We would like to take some action, but we shall have to be advised by lawyers on how to quantify the damage.
“There is no doubt a player of Kieron's standing would lose out on sponsorship and endorsements that might not be realised for another four years.
“A successful World Cup might have inspired a big bid from a top foreign club.”
In an attempt to diffuse the situation El Khalej admitted that it was a bad tackle but said: “I'm so sorry for what happened. I never meant to hurt him. I went for the ball but he was too quick for me.”
Dyer's injury led to an England call-up for Liverpool's Danny Murphy, but the Newcastle player eventually recovered just in time to fly to Japan.
Had he missed the finals, this claim would have been the largest in football history for a player at the top of his game and with the potential to earn a fortune following a successful World Cup campaign.