Duty of Care

All players, coaches, officials, facility operators and competition organisers have a shared duty to participate in environments that are as safe as practically possible for everyone involved. This duty is referred to, in the eyes of the law, as the ‘duty of care’.

As with all sports and physical activities, being involved with netball activity as a participant, coach, official or spectator, carries a degree of risk. The risks vary depending on the type of session, fixture, or event, where it is taking place and who is taking part.

All players, coaches, officials, facility operators and competition organisers have a shared duty to participate in environments that are as safe as practically possible for everyone involved. This duty is referred to, in the eyes of the law, as the ‘duty of care’.

The law tends to view that the people in a supervising or managing capacity owe a greater duty of care than players, spectators, and passers-by. Coaches, umpires, and tournament organisers are included in this group of supervisors or managers.

Due to the inherent nature of sport and recreation, injuries and potentially death can occur, and if those affected by such events believe it to be avoidable or not dealt with correctly, will seek some form of compensation or redress from those responsible.

Consider the following examples, which although are rare occurrences, are incidents that have previously happened:

  • Player slips on a football goal post net in the run-off area behind the goal line, falls and breaks their wrist
  • Goal ring falls on a child, hitting their head
  • Elderly spectator suffers a heart attack while attending an event

Facility operators have a responsibility to:

  • Provide information to event organisers or sessional coaches about:
    • venue specific risks (g. reduced run-offs) and mitigations required (e.g. no kit bags allowed in run-offs)
    • any equipment set up procedures
    • maximum numbers allowed to use the space
    • evacuation procedures in the event of a fire or bomb threat
    • first aid and accident reporting procedures
    • access to the nearest defibrillator and route for emergency vehicles

Prior to the event or session, competition organisers or sessional coaches have a responsibility to:

  • Assess and agree mitigation procedures for any risks identified for the space, observing maximum capacity levels and any venue operator requirements
  • Provide information to participants, coaches and umpires about the risk mitigation procedures and emergency procedures
  • Ensure volunteers have training on any equipment set up procedures
  • Determine how spectators are to be managed, ensuring that spectators are safe, and participants are safe from spectators
  • Ensure there is access to first aid and all first aiders are aware of their nearest defibrillator and access to emergency vehicles

During the event / session, event organisers or session coaches have a responsibility to:

  • Undertake periodic checks on the court surface and posts, stopping play to deal with any issues such as clearing water from an indoor court, or securing a loose post
  • In the event of an injury, follow first aid procedures and ensure that an accident report is completed / shared with relevant parties
  • In the event of a serious injury or dangerous occurrence, there may be a requirement to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under RIDDOR procedures
  • Give participants time for a proper warm up and cool down
  • Do not rush or expect participants to play at a level they are not ready for, g. run a ‘Netball Now’ session for complete beginners
  • In the event of an alarm, calmly follow evacuation procedures and check register of participants at the muster point

Officials have a responsibility to:

  • Check the playing surface and equipment
  • Ensure that the field of play and run-offs are free from hazards and / or spectators
  • Protect participants from avoidable personal injuries (e. from long nails, jewellery)
  • Manage the game and enforce the rules consistently and fairly
  • Issue reminders and warnings where appropriate
  • Anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers

If a person is injured through participation in netball and wishes to seek some form of compensation, whether they succeed will depend on establishing three things:

  1. That the person was owed a duty of care
  2. That there was a breach of this duty of care
  3. As a result, an injury occurred

A person who is injured and wishes to seek some form of compensation, must sue someone in a court of civil law for negligence. In a court of civil law, a successful case will depend on establishing that a relationship exists between the injured party and the person or organisation being held responsible.

When injuries occur in netball, there are a number of relationships that could be potentially considered as having a duty of care. For example:

  • The coach
  • The umpires
  • The facility owner or operator
  • The organising committee of the event or league

Whilst establishing a duty of care is one thing, proving on the balance of probabilities that a breach of this duty of care is another. Whether or not the person’s lawsuit is successful will depend on this.

To establish whether a person has breached the duty of care they are owed to another, the question is normally asked is:

Should those responsible for organising the activity have considered the likelihood of such an incident from occurring and taken steps to prevent the injury from happening?


Our legal system will carefully consider here what is reasonable to expect a person or organisation to have done or not done in the circumstances.

For example:

  • Is it reasonable for the organisers to check the goal rings are secure before every match?
  • Is it reasonable for play to continue in the event of someone’s water bottle spilling on the playing surface of an indoor court?
  • Does the owner or operator of the venue bear any responsibility e. did they ignore reported concerns over surface maintenance?

It is important to note and understand here that:

Intention: there is no need to provide any intention on the part of the person being sued. In other words, there is no defence for the defendant to say, ‘I did not put the hole there deliberately.’

Probability: there is no defence to claim no one took steps to check the posts because accidents involving faulty posts ‘hardly ever happen’.

When a court finds that someone breached a duty of care owed to another, they are said to have been negligent.

Netball clubs, leagues and coaches can take steps to ensure that they are not sued for negligence by undertaking a written risk assessment of their session, fixture or event and making sure that steps are taken to manage / reduce the risks identified. These steps and procedures must be communicated in a way that ensures participants, coaches, umpires, and spectators understand how to keep themselves and others as safe as practically possible.

Individuals and organisations who are members of, or are registered with, England Netball are insured, subject to the terms, condition, provisions and exceptions of the policy.

In the case of registered clubs, registered leagues, county netball associations and regional management boards, the type of insurance for the defence of personal injury allegations is called ‘Public Liability’.

In the case of coaches, umpires and volunteers, the type of insurance for the defence of personal injury allegations and incidents arising from professional negligence is called ‘Public Liability and Professional Indemnity’.

England Netball’s public liability and professional indemnity policies do not cover the activities of unregistered clubs, leagues, or competitions on an organisational or individual level.

If you are an unregistered club or league, you are advised to take out independent Public Liability insurance for your organisation, even if those who compete in your league are members.

If you are a member and choose to coach or officiate within an unregistered league, you are advised to take out independent Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance to protect yourself against allegations of negligence.

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