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Playing football is simply not cricket - issues with athletes’ insurance against training and warm-up injuries following the Rory Burns case

Playing football is simply not cricket - issues with athletes’ insurance against training and warm-up injuries following the Rory Burns case
By Nina Goolamali QC, Luka Krsljanin

Those who avidly follow cricket would be forgiven for having a “groundhog day” moment when the news broke[1] on 2 January 2020 that Rory Burns had injured his left ankle playing football in practice on the eve of the second Test in South Africa.  Burns, who was in very good batting form, was replaced by Kent’s Zak Crawley, which meant the loss of a key player at the top of England’s batting order, not just for the rest of the Test, but for 4 months.  The immediate fallout from the injury has seen England ban the squad from playing football, although how long the ban will subsist and whether it will trickle down to county cricket level long term remains unclear.

The incident may be unfortunate, but it is not uncommon.  Tim Wigmore, in the Telegraph, made a list of Four of England’s stupidest injuries.”[2] It makes grim reading as 2 out of the 4 incidents arose out of playing football. In 2018 Jonny Bairstow twisted his ankle playing football during training on the ODI tour of Sri Lanka, leading to him being ruled out of the last two ODIs and the First Test. Much earlier in 2009, Joe Denly was injured after a tackle by fellow batsman Owais Shah. Andy Flower, England’s coach at the time, reacted by banning football for a period.  And the problem does not just lie in domestic cricket. In 2005, Glenn McGrath sustained a serious ankle injury[3] when he trod on a stray cricket ball left on field whilst he was playing a game of touch rugby in warm up for the Second Test against England.  

Aside from re-igniting the debate about the merits of allowing competitive cricketers to play football in practice sessions, this fresh incident raises interesting questions about liability for rehabilitation costs and the potential insurance implications of injuries sustained in training and warm up sessions.  Accordingly, this article examines some of the key points for teams and players to be aware of.  Specifically, it looks at the following questions:

  • Do team policies cover training injuries?
  • What does “training” include?
    • The importance of making specific disclosures
    • Official training vs. informal “kick-arounds”  
  • Liability for over-zealous or intentional tackles
  • The England Cricket Board’s insurance schemes
  • Summary

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About the Author

Nina Goolamali

Nina Goolamali QC

The 2TG Sports Law Team led by Nina Goolamali QC comprises specialist advocates who have extensive experience of acting for clients in high profile or sensitive matters across all major sports including football, rugby (union and league), motorsports (F1, MotoGP, motocross, Formula 3 and karting), cycling, equestrianism, cricket, skiing, gymnastics, martial arts, netball and tennis.

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Luka Krsljanin

Luka Krsljanin

Barrister at 2TG

A self-confident and bright advocate”, who is “very good technically, very thorough and approachable”, Luka is ranked as a leader in the field for his work in Private International Law (Chambers UK).

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