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League warns clubs about historical claims from injured players

The tackle that injured Rees Welsh while playing for Radcliffe Borough against Ossett Town
Image: The tackle that injured Rees Welsh while playing for Radcliffe Borough against Ossett Town

Semi-professional clubs are being told to brace themselves for a wave of lawsuits, following a landmark ruling last week where a player seriously injured in a tackle was awarded £135,000.

Rees Welsh suffered a badly broken ankle playing for Radcliffe Borough in a match at Ossett Town in April 2015.

The Northern Premier League wrote to its member clubs on Monday to warn them that it may lead to "multiple historical claims from players who have suffered injuries during matches".

One of the major issues facing non-league clubs is that their insurance has been found to be unfit for purpose.

Ossett United (formed last year when Ossett Town merged with Ossett Albion) had insurance through the league, but crucially their policy does not cover "player to player" incidents.

They are now facing the prospect of having to sell their ground to pay for the damages and legal costs.

The FA's National Game insurance scheme was introduced in response to a similar ruling in 2010, when a court awarded £32,000 damages to former Altrincham striker Marcus Hallows, who was forced to retire because of a broken leg he suffered after a tackle during a Conference North match against Ashton United.

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That made it mandatory for all clubs to have Public Liability Insurance - but it is not compulsory for clubs to have policies that include cover "player to player" incidents, leaving them without protection if they are sued.

Indeed the Northern Premier League stopped offering the increased level of cover due to "escalating cost" although member clubs were free to obtain such cover independently.

In a letter to member clubs, League chairman Mark Harris said that they're waiting for the judge's full written reasons before taking the next step.

"Once we receive the full judgement we will consult with the League's insurers as a matter of urgency," the letter read.

"Together with any advice we receive from the FA, we will aim to issue detailed guidance as soon as possible. Please be assured we are 'on the case' and treating this with the urgency the situation demands."

Ossett United chairman Phil Smith already fears for the future of football at that level, saying: "I have had other chairmen throughout the league making contact and raising their own concerns.

"They are worried that an immeasurable amount of claims can now be raised from previous incidents at their club resulting in them actually losing their football club, it's quite a scare situation we are all now in."

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