Sports Law - Player Vs Official

(by Greg Rollingson - UK Solicitors specialising in sports injury law)

In what circumstances will a referee, umpire, or other judge be held liable?

Again the threshold of liability is high one and as with a participant, a referee cannot be held liable for errors of judgment, oversight or lapses. Something more is required. Two cases illustrate this.

· Smoldon v. Whitworth & Nolan (1997). Here a referee of a Colts Rugby Union match was found liable for the injuries suffered by a rugby player as the result of a collapsed scrum. However, on this occasion the referee had failed to enforce the rules of the International Rugby Football Board as applied to a colts game, in which there had been more than 20 collapsed scrums. There had also been complaints from certain players, a warning from one of the touch judges and shouts from spectators.

· Vowles v Evans and Others (2002). This case concerns a rugby player whose neck was broken as a result of a collapsed scrum. The referee had allowed a flanker to move to the position of prop after one of the props had gone off injured. The Court said the referee should not have allowed the flanker to play in such a specialised position and should have ordered non-contested scrums. This was despite the fact that it is general practice to leave such a decision to the players and coach. The referee is seeking permission to appeal this decision.

If you think you have a potential claim or someone is making a claim against you and you would like advice, then contact Rollingsons Sports Law Team on 020 7405 4022 or visit our website