Court dismisses referee's appeal

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Court of Appeal's decision yesterday that a referee was to blame for crippling injuries suffered by the teenager Ben Smoldon has widespread implications for rugby union.

The referee, Staffordshire official Michael Nolan, 54, had his appeal against an earlier High Court ruling dismissed. Smoldon, now 22, will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair after breaking his neck when a scrum collapsed during an under-19 colts match between Sutton Coldfield and Burton more than five years ago. The High Court ruled last April that Nolan did not exercise reasonable care and skill in refereeing the scrums. Between 18 and 24 scrums collapsed at various stages of the game.

The RFU said the ruling had "extended the scope of potential liability for sporting officials, and this must have implications for the playing and refereeing of the game.

"The position would seem to be that, if in the opinion of the Court, the standard of care applied by the officials controlling a game, for whatever reason, even inexperience, falls below the standard of care the Court deems appropriate, they may be held liable for any injuries which may result. Our first and foremost concern is for the safety of all participants in the game. This we shall continue to strive for to our utmost ability."

The court case has shown that refereeing a physical contact sport had now become a risky business in terms of insurance requirements and potential damages claims.