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Ossett United controversy as club lose legal case

Written by Sport, Sport Features

Ossett United, a non-league football club from West Yorkshire, have announced plans to sell their ground, after losing a legal case.

The case was brought against the club by an opponent, who broke his ankle during a match. Rees Welsh claims that Ossett’s player Sam Akeroyd met him with a ‘poor challenge’, resulting in the injury. The damage to Welsh’s ankle left him unable to play football for a year, leading him to pursue a case against both Ossett United, and Akeroyd himself.

Ossett United’s chairman, Phil Smith, responded to the incident by claiming Akeroyd had actually performed a ‘solid tackle’, and argued that any damage to Welsh was caused when Akeroyd’s trailing leg accidentally caught his ankle.

The court ultimately ruled against Ossett United, granting Welsh damages of £19,000, as well as ordering the club to pay legal costs and fees totalling £115,000.

Ossett have taken full responsibility for the fees, meaning Akeroyd will not have to part with his own money. A crowdfunding page has been set up, hoping to help the club raise the £134,000 they need.

Ossett did have an insurance policy, including a liability policy offered by the Northern Premier League. However, they have been told said policy did not protect them from acquiring costs or legal fees, in the event of a lost claim.

Personally, I think this sets a dangerous precedent for the sports world.

Whilst the referee at the match in question did accuse Akeroyd of using ‘excessive force’ when tackling Welsh, it could be argued that injuries- including serious ones- are a risk a professional sportsman ought to accept. Allowing participants in any sporting event to sue in the event of injury could get very expensive, very quickly.

Moreover, the concept of ‘excessive force’ could be considered subjective- who gets to decide whether a ‘bad’ tackle was done with genuine malicious intent, or whether it was simply an unfortunate accident?

With regards to the insurance policy, it seems strange that the incident involving Welsh is not covered. Surely, a liability policy ought to cover all injury claims against the club, including in relation to incidents on the pitch.

A trend towards both players suing rival clubs in the wake of injuries, and insurance policies claiming not to cover such incidents, could prove financially ruinous for smaller clubs.

Last modified: 29th January 2020

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