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Rugby law recap: damages for head injury victim, new TMO system, abuse of match officials, and problems with sleeping pills

Friday, 04 April 2014 By Henry Elkington

In this week’s European Rugby Law Blog Henry Elkington reviews the key issues of week’s including: student rugby player awarded £2.29m damages; IRB TMO system; player sanctioned for pushing a referee; coach banned for abusing a match official; problems with sleeping pills and alcohol abuse; and, the arrest of club owner over allegations of money-laundering and fraud.


Student rugby player gets £2.29m damages

22 year old student Lucas Neville has been awarded €2.75m (£2.29m) in damages after suffering a serious head injury during a school rugby match. The damages were accepted by Neville’s mother on Monday (24/013/2014) at the High Court in Dublin. Mr Neville had sued his former school, St Michael's College Dublin, and St Vincent's Healthcare Group, as owner of St Vincent's Hospital Dublin following an injury in November 2009.

Mr Neville originally suffered a knock to his head during rugby practice on 11 November 2009 for which he was treated at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin. He then sought further medical help on 15 November at the same hospital after complaining of headaches and eye problems. A scan was deemed unnecessary by the medical staff.

However, had that scan been performed, it would have shown a subdural haematoma which could have been evacuated. Mr Neville, oblivious to his serious condition therefore returned to his regular school schedule. Mrs Neville was given assurance that the school had rules in place to stop students with head injuries participating in contact sports for three weeks (21 days).

However on the 28 November Mr Neville sustained further injury when he came on for his school team. St Michael’s school admitted that it had been negligent in allowing Mr Neville to play. This comes at a significant time as awareness of head injuries is increasingly, and rightly so, being taken more seriously. This is illustrated by a parliamentary inquiry, into the way sports handle concussion and the regulations surrounding it, being called for by Chris Bryant MP. You can read more on concussion in one of my earlier pieces (link attached below).



Should the IRB introduce a new TMO system?

Last week many would have seen the catastrophic mix up made by football referee Andre Marriner in sending off the wrong player in a match between Chelsea and Arsenal. Had football implemented a form of rugby’s Television Match Official (TMO) this may have been averted.

This technology is being used in rugby and IRB protocol allows match officials to refer a variety of potential infringements by the scoring team to the TMO, as well as a similar number by the defending team if it might have prevented a score. Only once the TMO is asked are they able to bring to the match officials’ attention to any other offences which they had not previously been asked about. Should the TMO be given the power to contact the referee without being asked first if foul play was spotted by the TMO but innocently missed by the referee?

Brian Moore argues that the current TMO system needs clarification. Moore claims that “the TMO does not give any explanation of his reasoning and in particular does not state the wording of the law which he is using to make the decision. This is unhelpful to those watching and listening and should be changed immediately”. Moore also argues, and I agree, that clarification is needed when a TMO is asked to look at something. Over the Six Nations campaign and during the domestic leagues we have seen countless examples of referees asking for the TMO to look into an incident and then making up their own mind by looking at the big screens in the stadium. Moore argues that perhaps the TMO should be abolished if this was to continue because the referee, as stated in rugby’s laws, is the sole judge of fact and law during a match. Others take a different view on the matter. Others argue that although the referee is the spearhead of the officiating of the game, if the clock is stopped for a TMO to review a decision then shouldn’t their advice should at least be heard? It raises an interesting questions, does the referee relinquished authority by asking the TMO to review the incident?


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Written by

Henry Elkington

Henry Elkington

Henry is an aspiring sports lawyer, currently completing his GDL in Cardiff. Henry graduated from the Cardiff University with a B.A. in History and Philosophy. He has a passion for all sports especially rugby and tennis having played for the first team at Cardiff University.

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