World Cup winners, hundreds of rugby players suing rulemakers over negligence

England’s World Cup winner Nobby Stiles’ family is among the group’s legal actions against the football governing body (IFAB) as well as the English and Welsh FAs for their negligence in failing to protect whistleblowers from permanent brain injury.

The legal action is being led by London-based law firm Rylands, which said it represents over 30 footballers with “brain damage”.

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They also represent a group of over 300 former rugby union and league players who are facing neglect by the authorities.

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“The plaintiffs contend that these defendants were negligent in failing to take reasonable action to protect the players from permanent injury caused by repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows,” Ryland said in a statement on Friday.

“Many players are now suffering from, or have died from, various irreversible neurological damages, including early stages of dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and post-concussion syndrome.”

The FA, FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The Football Association of Wales declined to comment.

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Rylands’ statement also specified specific areas in which governing bodies had neglected, including reducing decision-making in matches and training, monitor the amount of head contact and appropriate requirements for the examination of players.

Rylands’ lawyer Richard Boardman said the claim was not just about financial compensation, adding that it was “also about making the game safer and ensuring the game is proven to former players”.

The family of England’s 1966 World Cup-loving midfielder Stiles, who died aged 78 in October 2020 and had been diagnosed with dementia, is among the estates.

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“These proposed judgments are part of this universal campaign for justice for victims, like dad, and for the fundamental change of the industry that continues the death and health of thousands of sportsmen (professional and amateur, men and women) every year,” said John the son of Stilis.

The IFAB has given the go-ahead to tests for permanent concussion substitutes in 2020, which followed the Premier League and introduced the Women’s Super League system in England last year.

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