U.S. Markets open in 6 hrs 1 min

FA urged to arrange mandatory player-to-player insurance as Ossett United's future remains in jeopardy

Jeremy Wilson
Ossett United lost a landmark legal case taken by an opponent who broke his ankle - The Canadian Press

The Football Association have been warned that the future of non-league clubs across England is being placed in jeopardy over the ongoing absence of mandatory player-to-player insurance policies.

Ossett United, who play in the Northern Premier League, have this week set up a crowd-funding page and said that they will be forced to sell their ground after they lost a landmark legal case taken by an opponent who broke his ankle.

Ossett’s insurance, which included the liability policy offered by the Northern Premier League, only covered their own legal fees and did not fully protect them should they lose a claim. They are now facing a court order of almost £135,000 for damages, costs and legal fees.

Paul Mulderrig, a personal injury lawyer who was involved with Rees Welsh’s claim against Ossett, told The Telegraph that he has been regularly telling the FA since 2005 that they must make player-to-player insurance obligatory.

“This is not about making money - it is about the welfare of the young people who find themselves in this awful situation,” he said. “There is a responsibility for them and for non-league clubs.”

Ashton United’s existence was also threatened by a similar incident back in 2010 when Marcus Hallows was awarded £32,500 following a career-ending injury. Mulderigg says that he also contacted the FA following that claim.

“Wind the clock forward and there has been another case,” he said. “If this is not changed, let’s set our watch and see which is the next team who will face a potentially ruinous claim.”

Mulderrig stressed that this type of claim was actually rare and very difficult to prove. There is also a three-year statute of limitations and, while Mulderigg said that he understood people talking about “compensation culture”, stressed that their attitude usually changed when they witnessed the consequences of a serious injury.

As well as the loss of football income for what are often semi-professional players, Mulderigg often deals with men aged between 18 and 40 with heavy physical jobs. “Six months off work can cause an enormous amount of financial heartache,” he said. It has been suggested that a mandatory player-to-player scheme would only increase insurance costs by around £30 to £50 each year per club.

The Northern Premier League confirmed their legal cover related to defence costs and said that, while player-to-player cover was previously an optional extra, the escalating cost made it unaffordable for most. The FA stressed that clubs or individuals were free to take out their own player-to-player insurance.

“It is a mandatory requirement for all affiliated clubs in England to have public liability insurance and personal accident insurance for their players," said an FA spokesperson. In 2012, the FA also introduced the National Game Insurance Scheme to help facilitate a uniformity of basic cover and ensure that “competitive and robust insurance products” were universally available.