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World cup fever is once again upon us with the action kicking off in Russia yesterday afternoon. All eyes were on the line up for the Egypt team ahead of their game today against Uruguay.

One of Egypt’s star player, Mo Salah, was recently injured in the Champions League final while playing for Liverpool. Salah was the victim of a brutal tackle from Sergio Ramos resulting in a dislocated shoulder. It has been suggested that the tackle from Ramos was a deliberate attempt to injury Salah. Others have suggested it was all in the spirit of the game. I have been asked, more than once now(!), whether Ramos could be sued by Salah for the injury sustained?

Salah and RamosThe general position with injuries incurred during a contact sport is that you cannot make a claim for compensation as there is a degree of risk accepted in the nature of the game. However, some injuries will be so bad, they will fall out with the nature of the game and, therefore, it may be possible to claim compensation.

Over the years, there have been a number of high profile cases where career-ending injuries have been caused by one player to another which have resulted in litigation. The starting point for any claim for compensation is establishing three things:

  1. Did a duty of care exist?
  2. Was this duty breached?
  3. Did the breach of duty cause harm?

Unsurprisingly, players of sports owe each other a duty of care. In order to show that a breach of duty has occurred, it would be necessary to prove that Ramos acted in a way which would be considered to be reckless and his actions would have to fall below the skills of a reasonable and competent football player.

The leading authority on the matter comes from the case of Sharpe v Highland and Islands Fire Board [2007] CSIH 34. In this case, instructors and recruits of the Fire Board were engaging in a game of football when Mr Sharpe sustained a nasty fracture to his leg following a tackle by one of the recruits. He brought an action for damages against the recruit who caused the injury and the Fire Board. The case was dismissed at first instance and subsequently appealed. Mr Sharpe was ultimately unsuccessful in his case. The judges considering matters sought to apply the ‘neighbour principle’ to injuries of this nature and advised that the conduct of the player causing the injury will be measured against the standard skills of a reasonable football player.

In Salah’s case, he would be able to show a duty of care was owed to him by Ramos, simply due to the nature of the game.

However, in order to succeed in his case, he would also have to show that Ramos’s tackle fell below what would be considered reasonable – no doubt there are differing opinions on the tackle! A bad tackle will not always be a negligent tackle. In judging whether the tackle fell below a reasonable standard, a court would consider what is in the ordinary rules of the game. For example, if one play is to punch another during a game of football, this would be outside the ordinary parameters of the game and, therefore, could assist in establishing a breach of duty of care.

In Salah’s case both players were actively pursuing the ball when the incident occurred. On the face of it, it does not look like Salah would have reasonable prospects of success in proving Ramos has been negligent given the circumstances of injury. The injury occurred during normal game play and would be considered to all in the nature of the sport.  

The law surrounding claims for injuries occurring during a game of football, or any other sport, is somewhat a grey area and will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. It would not be reasonable to end up in a situation where every tackle or minor injury sustained during a game of football could be actionable as this would take away from the spirit and fun of the game.

Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Personal Injury Solicitor

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