Can sports clubs compel players to return to play and waive health and safety liability?
As elite-level leagues, sporting associations and other stakeholders debate whether competitions can be restarted in an era of physical distancing, it has been reported that some professional football and rugby clubs are proposing to require players to sign disclaimers in relation to the health risks posed by Covid-19 before they resume training.
This article by John Mehrzad QC and Joseph Bryan of the Littleton Sports Law Group discusses the legal consequences of clubs seeking to compel players to train or play and whether such ‘disclaimers’ are of any legal effect. Specifically, it:
- sets out relevant first principles of employment rights in the UK;
- suggests that players may be entitled to refuse to play or train due to Covid-19 concerns; and
- explains how waivers of liability for Covid-19-related personal injury or death are not enforceable.
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- Tags: Coronavirus | COVID-19 | Dispute Resolution | Employment | Employment Rights Act 1996 | Football | Health | Participation | Rugby | Safety | UK
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John Mehrzad QC was appointed Silk after only 13 years’ practice – the fastest appointee in the 2019 competition. With a background in employment law and commercial law, his sports law at Littleton Chambers, London, practice focuses, on the one hand, on financial disputes between clubs, managers, players, intermediaries, associations and commercial partners – usually before FA, PL or EFL arbitrations, or before FIFA or the CAS. On the other hand, he works in policy and regulatory issues in sport, including selection, equalities and discrimination, classification and disciplinaries. He is also a leading figure in carrying out independent reviews, having done so for British Cycling (2016-17), British Equestrian Federation (2017-18) and UK Athletics (2019-20). He is also an independent panellist for Sport Resolutions, the FA, the CAS and the League Managers Association. He was a selected advocate for London 2012, Glasgow 2014 and is a legal mentor to Tokyo 2020. He also founded and leads Littleton’s ‘Inspire Sports Law’ initiative, which offers work-experience and mentoring to athletes transitioning from sporting careers and to those from under-represented backgrounds at the Bar. His full professional web-CV is available here.
Recent sports law instructions include:
- Drafting Particulars of Claim in a multi-million-pound football breach of contract claim.
- Representing an athlete charged with an Adverse Analytical Finding by the IAAF.
- Advising in a Rule K FA Arbitration.
- Representing a high-profile athlete in proceedings before the National Anti-Doping Panel.