Between programs and budgets, there looms a larger responsibility for athletic directors to protect coaches, students and their schools from costly lawsuits resulting from negligence within their own departments. The question is how. Sports law can be complex and the thousands of requirements and regulations seem to change at a rapid pace.
Athletic directors must keep up, and the best way to achieve that is by seeking help from school officials and sports attorneys who can provide guidance on creating a safe playing environment that meets all legal obligations. Some of the biggest challenges facing athletic directors today are Title IX, risk management and bullying — each presenting various issues for high schools. By developing a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations with each, athletic directors can take a huge leap forward in providing the best leadership for their athletics programs and their schools.
Title IX is 40 years old, and although most athletic directors are accustomed to the rules and regulations accompanying it, it continues to create problems for school districts that have trouble complying. Several high school athletic departments around the nation are investigated each year for apparent violations.
Federal officials are currently reviewing a Texas high school after the former girls soccer coach filed a complaint. The coach resigned in part because he says his compensation was not equal to the pay given to coaches in other sports. Fortunately, for all other sports at the high school, Title IX says that they deserve the same treatment.
Another high school in Massachusetts is under review for its response to two sexual assaults committed by a male student-athlete. Issues also are apparent at the collegiate level. Quinnipiac University Conn. The university claimed competitive cheerleading was among its offerings, but the appellate court rejected the argument.
That sometimes can force unpopular cuts to programs that still have a great deal of demand. At the forefront of critical issues facing athletic directors is injury management, particularly with growing concerns over concussions and what schools are doing to protect student-athletes. The first is providing student-athletes with top-of-the-line equipment.
Robert Wallace Jr. Louis attorney who has counseled professional and college teams, says budget constraints cannot be an excuse to provide athletes with anything less than the most effective helmets and pads. Football programs, for example, can decrease the number of concussions by helping athletes strengthen their necks in the weight rooms and teaching players to tackle properly.
Another factor is playing facilities. Baseline testing is one of those practices, and even though its not mandatory in college and high school sports, Wallace says schools should considering adopting it on their own. Not only does it protect athletes from potential life-altering injuries, it also decreases the chances that the school or athletics program will face lawsuits resulting from negligence.
Having something in place still shows parents and school district the athletic department is serious about addressing significant injuries. Those kinds of procedures need to be taken. Without hesitation Wallace agrees that baseline testing should become standard practice at all schools. Athletic directors must not only hire coaches they can trust, but that message of compliance is reinforced constantly. It can be tempting sometimes for coaches to try to rush an athlete back to action, especially if there is a big game on the horizon or the student-athlete is eager to get back on the field.
Wallace says athletic directors need to make sure coaches are not making that decision in the first place. The majority of coaches do not have medical backgrounds and are not qualified to determine whether an athlete is ready for play. Trainers or physicians should be the only ones with the power to clear a player for action.
Now everybody realizes that things like that are not making anybody tough. Whether a student is a victim or posing a threat to others, coaches and team members must follow a policy that requires them to report incidents to the athletic director.
Ignoring problems or sweeping them under the rug sets up schools for potential lawsuits if serious damage is done. What makes the issue more difficult to manage is a lot of bullying now takes place over the Internet. Athletic directors have questioned whether schools can reasonably be held liable given the difficulty in overseeing the actions of hundreds of student-athletes. But coaches still need to be proactive in educating and supervising students.
Corporal Punishment: Violation of Child Rights in Schools
Again, that starts with the athletic director. Walsall MBC admitted that there had been a breach of their duty to maintain the path, but argued that in accordance with Section 57 Criminal Justice and Courts Act , the claim should be dismissed for fundamental dishonesty. On the one hand, the claimant stated that he had begun his return to athletics, had tried to return to cycling and could run up to five kilometres, but was not yet ready to resume rugby.
The defendant countered that it had discovered that the claimant had actually been undertaking training for triathlons, half marathons and full marathons and was, therefore, capable of running, cycling and swimming considerable distances. In paragraphs , the claimant is listed as having engaged in the following:.
There was also evidence that he had being playing rugby in The court considered that the claimant had deliberately downplayed the level of physical activity that he was able to engage in an attempt to maximise the damages awarded. Thus, reluctantly, the court held that the claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in relation to the primary claim for personal injury compensation.
UKA Coach Building A Better Coaching Environment
The claimant had a genuine claim, for a genuine injury, that genuinely had a lasting impact on his life, but had his claim dismissed because he had sought compensation for an injury that was much less serious than he claimed. The law of vicarious liability has expanded in scope dramatically over the past 20 years.
The justification for this was that if the employer was going to receive the benefit of the employees work, then it should also bear the risk of any wrongdoing committed by them whilst doing their job. A series of cases, culminating in Barclays Bank Plc v Various Claimants , 9 has both clarified and extended the law to capture not only employees, but anyone with a close employment-like connection to the employer.
In the Barclays case, the circumstances in which it will be appropriate to impose liability vicariously on an organisation were described as where:. The term " employee " as used here is defined much more widely than in other areas of the law and captures not just the employees of the employer, but also self-employed and independent contractors who are undertaking work on behalf of, or at the behest of, the " employer ".
The importance of this decision for sport, particularly in light of the many ongoing investigations into historical sexual abuse, cannot be underestimated. It means that anyone working for, or on behalf of, any club or other sporting organisation can now be considered to be an employee if the above five criteria are met.
TERMS & CONDITIONS
This could expand the liability of sports employers to include the injurious or abusive activities of, for example, any coaches, trainers, scouts, ambassadors or medical staff who were not technically employees, but for whom an employer can now be vicariously liable. When read together with Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd , 10 sports employers should be further worried.
The defendant employer was found to be vicariously liable for the violent assault carried out by its managing director on the claimant employee at a late-night drinking session in a hotel following the workplace Christmas party. This extends the kinds of activity that counts as being " in the course of employment " beyond the actual performance of the job for which the misbehaving employee is employed. This could include harm caused by the employee, as defined in Barclays, committed on the claimant at social events, fan engagement events, training camps, holidays and sleepovers.
NSCA Strength and Conditioning Professional Standards and Gu : Strength & Conditioning Journal
As the evidence against the various abusers begins to come to light, the tortious liability of the clubs with which they had close connections becomes a genuine prospect. It is likely that the ongoing investigations, prosecutions and potential civil actions arising from the various investigations into historic sexual abuse will continue to dominate discussions in this area in the coming year.
However, there are some other issues to continue to look out for. Last summer, research was published in the USA discussing whether heading in football should be banned, on the grounds that the risk of concussion is too great. The Telegraph has been very supportive 12 of the work being carried to prove a risk between playing on crumb rubber pitches and cancer, whilst The FA is yet to be convinced He began his academic career at Anglia Polytechnic University on a research scholarship, examining the scope of the consent given by participants in contact sports to injury-causing challenges.
His first appointment at Manchester Metropolitan University was in to lecture in criminal law and sports law and to develop its innovative MA Sport and the Law. These pages contain general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.
The information provided here was accurate as of the day it was posted; however, the law may have changed since that date. This information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific situation.
LawInSport is not responsible for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website. Cases Sports Tribunal of New Zealand.
Class of Advertise Your Course. Already a member? Thank you for your interest and support. About LawInSport LawInSport is a knowledge hub, educational platform and global community of people working in or with an interest in sport and the law. Specifically, it looks at: Developments in the duty of care owed to athletes and sports participants; Fraudulent claims for compensation; and The impact of the expansion of vicarious liability on sport.
References 1  UKHL 47, at para.