As published by the Belfast Telegraph (19th March) and now the BBC, a teenage girl is claiming negligence in a lawsuit brought against the owners of both the Odyssey Arena and the Belfast Giants.
The reason for this?
As a schoolgirl back in 2008, whilst attending a Belfast Giants game, she was hit in the head by a puck that entered the spectator area.
She sustained a wound above her left eye which required four stitches and left her permanently scarred, though to what extent has not been substantiated in reports.
The young lady is apparently seeking a landmark award of up to £30,000 in damages.
So let’s take a look at the case brought by her QC Brian Fee.
Despite the arena complying with international ice hockey federation requirements, including the erection of Perspex and nets behind goals, he said “it was irrelevant that netting had been put up behind the goals, as his client was seated in another part of the arena.”
Also apparently public warnings about the danger of the puck possibly leaving the ice, were also deemed irrelevant
“This is a case where there’s a recognised high risk that a puck is going to come out and endanger the Odyssey staff or the public.”
In their claim against the Odyssey Trust Company Ltd and the Belfast Giants 2008 Ltd, lawyers for the girl claimed there was a failure to carry out a proper risk assessment.
It was also alleged that allowing multiple pucks to be used in a warm-up session without a referee’s supervision was negligent.
The QC went on to say: “If there’s a situation where there are multiple pucks in play the warning (given) is, if not useless, virtually useless.”
After hearing all evidence in the case Mr Justice Gillen reserved judgment.
I pray common sense will prevail in this first case of it’s kind in the UK as I look through the points published.
As regards to the inefficiency of the building to protect it’s clientele and staff, what more can an arena do than comply with the standards put down by the international federation of the sport it’s staging?
If you are accusing the Odyssey Arena and the Belfast Giants of being negligent then you are also making that accusation at the IIHF.
Yes the puck can leave the ice on occasions and surely being warned about the potential for injury should YOU not be paying attention, should make you concentrate on the action on the ice, whether it’s the warm up or not?
The odds of a puck leaving the ice surface and hitting, let alone seriously injuring a spectator, are slim at best.
“Allowing multiple pucks to be used in a warm-up session without a referee’s supervision was negligent.”
Perhaps the most ridiculous part of this case is this statement. I’ve spoken to a former UK hockey referee who can only ever recall one season where the officials took the warm-up at the same time as the players, it just doesn’t happen. Does the QC expect the 40+ players on the ice to warm up with a couple of pucks and just how would the officials police the game so the puck didn’t leave the ice and spectators weren‘t hurt?
Plain and simple this was an unfortunate accident and this young lady trying to sue six years after the event took place, smacks of the “where’s there’s a blame, there’s a claim” culture which has spread throughout the UK in recent years.
In the last couple of years we’ve had two of the biggest names in football injure a fan but haven’t seen lawsuits brought against the players or clubs involved, or had people arguing there should be better protection for fans.
In July 2013 Cristiano Ronaldo broke the wrist of a young Bournemouth fan after his long range free kick went wide and headed into the crowd during Real Madrid’s friendly with the Championship club.
Eleven year old Charlie Silverwood was given a signed Real Madrid shirt and ball as a gesture to say sorry.
A year previous Wayne Rooney also broke the wrist of nine-year-old Manchester United fan Jamie Thomas during the warm-up as the team prepared to face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.
Rooney sent a written apology to the boy along with a signed shirt after learning of his injury.
I’ve been to watch a cricket match and witnessed first hand someone in the crowd try to catch a ball that was headed his way after clearing the boundary rope, only to fail and injure himself, needing treatment from medical staff after the incident.
I could sit here and list from multiple sports where freak injuries have happened to those watching from the stands or sidelines.
Accidents happen and unless this case is thrown out, it could set a dangerous precedent for hockey moving forward.