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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 19:08 GMT


Watson award in dangerous tackle case

Tackle was negligent but not reckless, said the judge

Bradford City striker Gordon Watson has received a £50,000 interim payment after successfully suing an opponent who broke his leg in a tackle last year.

The First Division footballer took the defender Kevin Gray and his club Huddersfield Town to court for negligence over the tackle which left him out of the game for 18 months.

The order was made at the High Court in Leeds, where Craig Moore, for Mr Watson, asked for an interim payment of £100,000.

Mr Moore said the injury had robbed the 27-year-old of 18 months of his career and the loss of potential goal-scoring bonuses of more than £30,000.

[ image: Watson: Leg fractured in two places]
Watson: Leg fractured in two places
Mr Moore said Watson was now faced with renegotiating a contract with his value as a player is reduced because of the injury.

He could find himself out of work by next summer.

A full damages settlement is due next year, but on Thursday Mr Justice Hooper ordered a payment of £50,000 to be made by Gray and and his club within the next 14 days.

In his ruling, the judge said Gray knew he was taking a risk when he launched a tackle which left Watson with his right leg fractured in two places.

Gray had known his challenge on Watson carried with it a significant risk of serious injury.

The judge agreed with various descriptions of the challenge as "dangerous, appalling, diabolical and quite unacceptable".

He said the tackle, which resulted in Gray being booked by the referee, deserved to get a red card.

[ image: Gray: Deserved a red card, judge said]
Gray: Deserved a red card, judge said
The judge ruled on Monday that Gray had been negligent over the tackle, which happened in a match on 1 February, 1997.

But he rejected Bradford City's claim against Gray and Huddersfield Town that the tackle had been reckless and was responsible for depriving them of Watson's services.

The judge said the tackle was far too high: "I'm in no doubt that such a forceful, high challenge was one that a reasonable professional player would have known carried with it a significant risk of serious injury."

Ruling against Bradford's claim, he added: "It was negligent and a serious lapse of judgment, deserving of punishment under the rules of the game, but not, on the balance of probabilities, reckless."

'Fair and honest defender'

During the six-day trial, the court heard from several football experts, including television pundit Jimmy Hill, who said the tackle was the worst he had witnessed in nearly 50 years.

The incident took place at Bradford's Valley Parade stadium during Watson's third game for the club after he joined them from Southampton for a then record club fee of £575,000.

Watson has still to complete a full 90-minute match or to command a regular first team place.

The judge said he accepted Gray was a "fair and honest defender" and ruled that the tackle had not been an act of retaliation for an earlier clash between Watson and Gray's team-mate Paul Reid.

Gray and Huddersfield Town had denied negligence and said the injury to Watson was purely accidental.

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26 Oct 98†|†UK
Player wins dangerous tackle case

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