Clubs are advised to endure members register


SPORTS clubs have been advised to ensure all members are registered properly and their dues kept up to date in order to avoid facing costly legal claims.

This follows the decision by Mr Justice Morris in the High Court that a player with Bandon Rugby Club who was never formally elected to membership and whose subscription was unpaid was not actually a member of the club.

The judgment means that the player, Mr Barry Walsh, is now free to proceed with his action for damages against the club arising from serious head injuries he received when playing for Bandon on two occasions in 1990. Normally, club members are precluded from suing themselves.

"This is very serious for all codes. If the right registration procedures are not followed, and subscriptions are not up to date, it means a player is not a member and may not be covered by the club's insurance policies," said Mr Dermot Kelly, secretary of the Munster branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

He said it was "quite common" for rugby players to enter the game as schoolboys and make their way up through the teams without ever being formally registered. "There may be a lot of other people in that position of `unsubstantiated' membership, especially if they haven't paid their subscriptions."

According to Mr John Lyons, honorary secretary of the IRFU, no player is supposed to play for a club unless he is properly registered. "The rules of our competitions require all players to be members. We assume they are."

It was up to each club to ensure their players were properly registered and paid up. The judgment meant clubs should now be "on their guard" that this is the case.

The president of Bandon Rugby Club, Mr Owen Keane, last night declined to comment on the judgment.

All Irish rugby clubs are insured against injuries sustained by their members on the field, though the players themselves often top this up with their own policies.

However, the maximum awards are made in cases of physical injury or incapacitation. Mr Walsh, who was captain of the club at the time of the accident, sustained substantial brain damage but has been taught how to walk again.