Ossett United facing six-figure court order after landmark legal case

OSSETT United could be forced to sell their Ingfield home after being issued with a £135,000 court order following a landmark legal ruling.

By Ben McKenna
Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 8:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 5:10 pm
Ossett United chairman Phil Smith. PIC: John Clifton.
Ossett United chairman Phil Smith. PIC: John Clifton.

A court in Manchester ruled in favour of semi-professional player, Reece Welsh, who suffered a broken ankle while playing for Radcliffe Borough in a game against Ossett Town in 2015.

Welsh was awarded just under £20,000 in damages but Ossett are also liable for the legal costs, bringing the total order to £135,000.

Ossett Town merged with Ossett Albion in 2018, forming Ossett United. The liability was transferred to Ossett Town Ltd - also formed in 2018 - who own Ingfield and currently rent the ground lease free to Ossett United.

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Club chairman Phil Smith admits the ramifications of the ruling could have an adverse affect on numerous non-league clubs, as it could lead to an "immeasurable" number of players suing opposing teams if they suffer serious injury.

“I have had other chairman throughout the league making contact and raising their own concerns," said Smith.

"They are worried that an immeasurable amount of claims can now be raised from previous incidents at their club resulting in them actually losing their football club, it’s quite a scary situation we are all now in.

"I urge all sports clubs to check their insurance policies immediately, however, that will only protect future events, not the ones in the past like the one that now threatens our club.”

Ossett say their insurance policy came "league recommended" but did not protect them from damages or legal fees for the claimant should the case be lost.

United have started a crowdfunding appeal to raise funds which has currently raised £2,325 after one day.

However, the club has admitted that selling their home ground could be the "only option" if they are unable to raise the £135,000.

A club statement released on Sunday said: "As a club Ossett United are consulting as a board with their trusted advisors and their landlords, Ossett Town, as to the options that lay ahead of them with the looming option of selling the ground currently being the talk of the town."