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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Public school drops rugby
rugby match
Rugby is known to be a dangerous sport
A leading independent school is planning to drop rugby - partly because of the growing litigation culture over injuries.

The head teacher at the mixed King's School in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Richard Youdale, has written to parents saying the sport would be phased out over the next four years.

Mr Youdale admitted the decision would cause distress among some parents.

But he went on: "Since rugby is a game which is notoriously difficult to referee and increasingly subject to litigation, it is perhaps not surprising that schools have begun to find it harder to secure the services of referees and team coaches."

Mr Youdale said the decision was not made principally because of fears of litigation, but rather to allow soccer and hockey to become the school's major field sports.

Football popularity

The school introduced rugby only in 1960 and has found football to be an increasingly popular option among boys in recent years.

"We want to continue to give the boys the opportunity to play quality field sports against opposition of quality," said Mr Youdale.

"If we are to continue to do so it has become clear that we cannot reconcile the often-conflicting demands of boys' hockey, rugby and soccer."

Blame culture

But there have been several cases where pupils have sued for injuries sustained while playing the sport.

Last year, a former pupil at Newcastle-under-Lyme Grammar was awarded 100,000 damages after he suffered neck injuries during a school rugby game.

The incident was deemed to have damaged Ramsey Elshafey's academic and future job prospects.

John Dunford
John Dunford fears things will only get worse
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said he was aware of a growing number of heads who were concerned about pupils and parents heading for the courts.

"This particularly comes into play in relation to outdoor activities - mountain climbing, hill walking and so on," said Mr Dunford.

"Heads have become increasingly reluctant to sanction such activities without a very careful risk assessment - and that often results in the activity not taking place.

"Nowadays we live in a much more litigious world where parents are much more inclined to take the school to the courts.

"And so regrettably heads are placed in a situation where they are having to reduce the number of opportunities for young people."

The Independent Schools Council said it was not aware of any of its 1,300 members in the UK dropping a sport because of fears of litigation.

The King's School has never been involved in any such cases of litigation, a spokeswoman said.

See also:

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