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Confidential data leaks – what are the vicarious liability risks for sports organisations?

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 By Tim Meakin , Tim Walker, Richard Davies

Vicarious liability is a legal principle that renders a person, company (or certain organisations) liable for the “tortious” (wrongful) acts of another. The principle is well established in the sports law arena. For example, the tortious “on-field” act of a professional sports person (typically a reckless tackle causing career-ending injuries to another participant) has been deemed as impliedly authorised by the employer (or as an unauthorised way of undertaking the professional employment duties) and thus constitutes acting in the course of employment1

The principle can also extend beyond the employer/employee relationship (as we explore below). For example, an amateur sports club that places its junior players under the supervision of volunteer coaches may find itself vicariously liable for the negligence or deliberate torts of those coaches.

This article addresses a particular area of potential liability of sports organisations, namely the risks associated with unauthorised disclosure of confidential information held by such organisations (which ranges from commercial information regarding sponsors to personal and medical information relating to sports people). Specifically, it looks at:

  1. Part 1 - outlines the legal principles of vicarious liability and recent decisions which have expanded the scope of the doctrine;
  1. Part 2 - sets out a number of scenarios applicable to sports organisations demonstrating the potential reach of vicarious liability claims in the event of unauthorised disclosure of confidential information; and
  1. Part 3 - discusses practical steps that organisations may take in order to mitigate such risks. 

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Written by

Tim Meakin

Tim Meakin

Tim Meakin is a barrister at Seven Bedford Row. His practice covers a wide range of sports, including doping cases, and other sports disciplinary cases, child safe-guarding, in addition to specialist personal injury and professional negligence claims (including claims relating to doctors, physiotherapists and coaches). He has been instructed on a wide range of issues from individual sports personnel to major sporting bodies, (including the Rugby Football League, UK Athletics and British Cycling Federation). Tim provides both advice and representation in courts and tribunals and has undertaken a wide range of civil litigation and disciplinary cases before sports governing bodies as diverse as the Football Association, British Gymnastics and the British Canoe Union. Tim also writes on issues relating to Sports Law and he is a member of the British Association for Sport and Law (BASL).

Tim Walker profile photo

Tim Walker

Tim's practice focuses on the problems faced by small and medium sized enterprises in the commercial and employment fields. As a former international hockey player and qualified coach, distinctly average golfer, road cyclist and long term Liverpool fan, Tim also has a keen interest in sport and legal matters relating to sport.

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Richard Davies

Richard Davies


Richard specialises in commercial contracts, with a particular focus on the technology, media, sport and retail sectors. He has experience advising on a wide range of commercial contracts, IP, consumer and data protection matters. Richard has particular expertise in e-commerce and the use and monetisation of digital content. He has experience advising and drafting and negotiating agreements for a range of businesses from start-ups to major UK PLCs.

Richard is admitted to practise in England and Wales.


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