A recent case will set warning bells ringing for people who manage sports teams involving children and for school sports masters and mistresses. It involved a rugby match in which a boy who was well over age was selected to play for his school’s under-15 team. He committed a tackle which resulted in a broken elbow to one of the opposing players, who was much smaller and less heavy than he.
The injured boy sued. The Junior Rugby Guidelines of the England Rugby Football Schools’ Union state that players should not normally be selected to play matches outside their own age grouping. The sports master who had selected the over-age boy was ruled in the Court of Appeal to have erred in selecting him as it increased the risks to his opponents. It was therefore considered to be a breach of the masters’ duty of care to the members of the opposing team. The school which employed the sports master was therefore judged to be vicariously liable for the injury to the boy.
People organising sports teams should ensure that they abide by the rulebook of the relevant sports body and take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of injury to participants. Putting a ‘big un’ in the team may increase your chances of winning, but it may also increase your chances of being sued if an injury results.