RFL confident of defending brain-injury claims as 160 former players now involved

THE RFL’s director of operations and legal, Robert Hicks, has revealed that there are now approximately 160 former players pursuing legal actions alleging that the RFL was negligent in failing to take reasonable action to protect them from serious brain injuries.

Several players in the claim have been diagnosed with neurological problems, including early-onset dementia and suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Speaking on the League Express Podcast, Hicks said the players included in the active claim played Rugby League between 1970 and 2023.

“It is still at the embryonic stage; it will basically be case-managed in the High Court by a Senior Master Judge who will make some decisions around whether the Rugby League claim is separate to the rugby union and football claims,” he said. 

“Anybody who has suffered a brain injury we have huge sympathy for, but we believe we can successfully defend this claim because it is based upon a legal test of duty of care.

“We can only know what we knew at the time. Our (current) changes now don’t have anything to do with that claim, they’re about protecting future claims.

“What you know now is what you’re assessed against for people who are playing now – what we knew in the 1970s is what we will be assessed against for claims in that era.”

The RFL has seen its insurance costs nearly double in their last financial report and accounts lodged at Companies House and Hicks believes that the insurance partnership is the most crucial relationship in any sport. 

“We’ve secured what we believe to be a long-term partner of the sport in terms of insuring it and they’re actively involved in our brain-health matters,” he said. 

“We meet with them regularly and we update them with where the sport is going. They know what is going on in other sports because one of the other legal tests is whether you were acting reasonably like other governing bodies were.

“They are very pleased with everything that we are doing to mitigate the risks that are associated with the sport.

“We will never eliminate those risks – you can’t make the sport 100 percent safe – but what we can do is react to what we find out and we can make proportionate changes that will allow the sport to continue long-term.”