JOHN KELLEY IN PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND
MORE than 300 former international and leading club players are claiming significant damages for compensation following the emergence of serious brain damage from their careers.
If successful, it will possibly amount to millions of dollars.
They are suing World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby for failure to warn them of possible medical repercussions after their retirement. They cite amnesia, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Most of them are anonymous but they include England stars Phil Vickery (pictured), Steve Thompson and Mark Regan. Vickery says he can remember nothing about England winning the World Cup in 2003 and he has problems remembering the names of his children. Alix Popham reflects that he goes out to buy milk and upon arriving at the shop does not remember why he is there.
Four former New Zealand captains and top players have also made claims.
A further 18 players are expected to be named shortly.
Their first court appearance last week resulted in the throwing out by a judge of their attempt to submit a class action claim, meaning a joint one. He insisted on individual medical reports and a further hearing is set down for April or May next year.
The London Daily Telegraph has quoted their main lawyer as telling the court: “Not even the gladiators of Ancient Rome would have signed up for this.”
It is only two years or so since the RFU changed many of rugby’s playing laws, including setting a new maximum height of the shoulders for tackles.
That worked to a degree but it was noted that this could not be fully controlled by referees.
Rugby has faced criticism over many years for its alleged “brutality.”
The sport is now faced with its biggest survival threat in 150 years or so since its inception. But there is to be no effect on the Six Nations tournament fixture which begins on 2 February.
Such news is likely to be of great concern to parents in Africa, certainly in a country like Zimbabwe which has a long tradition of rugby.
Just how safe is rugby in the wake of this development? The traditional playing schools and clubs in Zimbabwe will definitely be following proceedings, to see if indeed the future of their favourite sport is under threat at all.