The Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice Clarke and Lord Justice Sedley, delivered Judgment at the Court of Appeal, London after hearing two days of submissions on 24 and 25 February 2003.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the Appeal made by David Evans (1) and the Welsh Rugby Union (2) following the decision of Mr Justice Morland who found in favour of the Llanharan 2nd XV player Richard Vowles on the issue of liability.
Following the Judgment of the Court of Appeal of today, the Welsh Rugby Union in consultation with their legal advisers will be considering carefully the grounds that exist to seek permission to appeal to the House of Lords.
The chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union general committee, Glanmor Griffiths, said of the judgement:
"We are obviously disappointed by the decision made at the Court of Appeal because, we believe it will have implications not only for the game of rugby union, but also for many other sports.
"This has been a landmark case for sport in the UK, which may force the governing bodies of many sports to re-examine their rules and regulations and take a long hard look at training practices for players, coaches and officials.
"This decision is likely lead to an increase in insurance premiums and make it even more difficult to recruit referees and umpires for a wide range of sports.
"While everybody connected with the game in Wales has the utmost sympathy with Richard Vowles, as a governing body we also have a responsibility to consider the wider implications for our game as a result of this decision. That is why we are considering applying for permission to appeal to the House of Lords."
THE HISTORY OF THE CASE
The Respondent, Richard Vowles was playing hooker for Llanharan 2nd XV against Tondu 2nd XV at Llanharan Dairy Field on Saturday 17th January 1998. Mr Evans, an experienced Welsh Rugby Union referee and practicing solicitor, refereed the match.
Early in the game, the Llanharan loosehead prop had to leave the field. He was replaced by a back row forward who had limited experience of the front row. Llanharan declined the referee's invitation to proceed with non-contested scrums. In injury time, and in what was likely to have been the last scrum of the match, Mr Vowles suffered a severe injury which left him paralysed when the packs failed to engage properly, although the scrum did not collapse.
The case brought by Mr Vowles was against the Welsh rugby referee David Evans, the Welsh Rugby Union Limited and Llanharan RFC.
The case was first heard by Mr Justice Morland in the Swansea County Court, where Justice Morland found in favour of Mr Vowles and held Mr Evans and Welsh Rugby Union were negligent but not Llanharan RFC. Justice Morland concluded that the lack of training and experience of the replacement loosehead prop was a significant contribution to the mistiming on engagement.
NOTE: As a result of his severe injury, Mr Vowles received a payment of Â£91,000, the maximum available pursuant to the disability insurance cover provided for all 239 of its member clubs by the Welsh Rugby Union. This payment was received on September, 1998