The variety of players involved highlights the extent of harm being claimed in the legal action against World Rugby. This is according to sports journalist Andy Bull.
The identities of 207 additional players involved in a legal case against World Rugby, as well as the English and Welsh national unions, have been made public. This is the first time that the public is gaining a clear understanding of the extent of the harm caused. The list includes a diverse group of individuals, including both men and women, amateurs and professionals, from different time periods and with various conditions. However, they all share three similarities: they have been diagnosed with neurological damage, they believe it was caused by rugby, and they are seeking compensation from the responsible parties for negligence.
A few individuals were part of the British & Irish Lions, some represented England, and others played for Wales. Phil Vickery, Gavin Henson, Mark Regan, Colin Charvis, Ian Gough, and Harry Ellis were among them. Duncan Bell, Paul Volley, and Paul Sampson were dedicated to club rugby and are familiar to many fans of the domestic league. There were also casual players who may not be recognized but could have been teammates or opponents during weekend games.
42 individuals remain under an anonymity order due to concerns about the potential impact on their mental health if their identities were disclosed. This highlights the difficult situation that many of the individuals whose names were recently made public are facing. The decision to reveal their names was made, in part, because the defendants did not object to it. They believed it was better to have all the names released at once rather than having them trickle out through media outlets over the course of three years.
The accused appear to be weary of battling their case through media outlets and are instead opting to resolve it in a court of law. Specifically, they have requested to use Court 75 at the Royal Courts of Justice, which is a room with low ceilings, strip lighting, and a non-functioning clock on the wall. During the proceedings, Susan Rodway KC, who is representing the plaintiffs, glanced at the clock at one point to determine how much time she had left, only to discover that it was of no use to her.
The proceedings have also come to a halt. The plaintiffs have submitted over 5,000 pages of documents. When Senior Master Jeremy David Cook initially sat down, he appeared overwhelmed by the numerous ring binders stacked around him. “Let’s start with some organizational tasks,” said Rodway. “You should have four binders…” However, even this simple detail was met with debate. “I have quite a lot,” Cook replied, gesturing towards the towering stacks of files. “Actually, a significant number.” After five minutes of discussion, it was revealed that the four binders had somehow multiplied into 12 due to their large volume.
Regrettably, the necessary medical records that were previously requested by the defense were not included in the disclosure. According to Cook, this resulted in a crucial and customary aspect missing from the submissions. Cook asserted that he was certain the case was suitable for group litigation, but the specifics of its structure still needed to be determined. This could not happen until all parties had access to the medical records. Currently, the defense has not been able to propose which cases, out of the hundreds, should be presented as the most representative of the rest. A date was set for the next hearing in late April.
Cook spoke in rapid bursts, frequently interrupted by frustrated sighs. He had the demeanor of a famished individual enduring a lengthy explanation from a server about the menu, when all he really wanted was a simple cheese sandwich. He expressed his disappointment that the matter had not yet been resolved. “It appears to me,” Cook stated at one point, “to be a fundamental issue.” The legal team for the defendants, seated in the back rows, all nodded in unison in agreement. World Rugby, the RFU, and WRU had all assembled a team of well-dressed lawyers and their assistants, eager to scrutinize the plaintiffs’ argument.
They have a positive outlook. However, you question if they are truly paying attention to their own official statement, which stated, “We must not neglect the individuals and athletes at the center of this situation. The legal proceedings are preventing us from offering support to the players involved, but we want them to understand that we deeply empathize with their challenges, we are attentive, and they are part of the rugby community.”
Nice words. However, they may ring empty to certain players who are suffering unless they are accompanied by genuine actions of care. While World Rugby, the RFU, and WRU may believe they have a reason to argue, they must not forget that they also have a sport and many injured individuals to take care of.