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An amateur footballer who was seriously injured while playing on a poorly maintained pitch was recently awarded £22,700 in compensation at Dewsbury County Court.
Paul Zoledziejewski, a 33-year-old mechanic, was playing for his club on a pitch in Shelf Hall Park in Calderdale. He tried to make a sharp turn but his foot became caught in a divot. The injury to Mr Zoledziejewski’s knee ligaments was so serious that he has had to stop playing football. His knee continues to cause him pain and he may require a plastic knee implant.
He brought a personal injury claim against Calderdale Council, which is responsible for the upkeep of the facility, and won. The judge heard that the playing surface had been left in a dangerous state after a recent gala event. There were tyre tracks, divots and holes in the pitch and the secretary of the amateur club had twice alerted the Council to the possibility that referees could declare it unfit to play on.
However, Calderdale Council has been granted leave to appeal. Lord Justice Gross said, “Because of its potential ramifications, this case should be heard by the Court of Appeal. The ramifications for amateur sport are considerable. Not every accident on the football field is attributable to negligence. Conditions of pitches used in amateur games vary.”
This follows a recent decision regarding a 20-year-old student who fractured his right kneecap during a pre-season practice match playing for Syston Rugby Football Club in Leicestershire when he was 16 years old. The injury was caused by a broken plastic cricket boundary marker that was not easily visible in the relatively lush grass.
In this case, the County Court ruled that the Rugby Club was negligent in not carrying out a thorough inspection of the pitch prior to the game. An appeal by the Club was upheld, however. The Court of Appeal accepted that it would have needed an inch-by-inch inspection of the playing area by more than one person to identify the debris and that the decision of the lower court would impose an unduly onerous duty of care on sports clubs, well beyond what is reasonable with respect to their health and safety obligations.
Section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006 supports the principle that the courts should be slow to impose standards which might prevent ‘desirable activities’ from taking place. It is up to the courts to determine liability based on the individual facts in each case.
Sports and recreational activities can pose risks and facilities providers have a duty to ensure that they are fit for purpose. If you have been injured as a result of a failure to put in place appropriate measures to safeguard your health and safety, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact Jeremy Walker or Richard Forskitt for claims advice.