An electrician who claimed his leg was deliberately broken by a defender during a football game with friends has lost a court fight to claim £150,000.
Billy Coppins, 34, blamed a tackle by Tony Wrigley during the friendly game in west London in November 2016 for his horror injury.
Mr Coppins had both bones in his right lower leg smashed by the challenge, which he says came in so late the ball was already ‘in the back of the net’.
It was electrician Mr Coppins’ third goal in the game, putting his side 3-0 up after 30 minutes, having already converted a penalty conceded by Mr Wrigley for handball.
He sued the defender, claiming he deliberately tried to injure him because he was ‘cheesed-off’ at losing and the ‘red mist had descended’.
But Mr Coppins’ claim was dismissed by Judge Heather Baucher QC last week, who said the injury was a result of a ‘last-ditch’ attempt by Mr Wrigley to stop a goal.
Billy Coppins (centre, with his girlfriend and lawyer), 34, blamed a tackle by Tony Wrigley during the friendly game in west London in November 2005 for his horror injury
But a judge last week ruled that the tackle was just ‘part and parcel’ of a ‘contact sport’. Pictured: Wrigley (centre) leaving court
During the case at Central London County Court, the judge heard the two groups of friends had hired Middlesex Stadium, in Ruislip, for the game.
It was for ‘fun’ and was to be followed by beers and a firework display, while a young steward had been enlisted to act as a non-professional referee.
The striker’s barrister, Andrew McNamara, told the judge: ‘Mr Wrigley appeared to be becoming increasingly frustrated at his team’s lack of success and his conduct on-field began to deteriorate.
‘At approximately 30 minutes into the first half, Mr Coppins then scored a third goal after having beaten the opposing goalkeeper and tapping the ball over the line.
‘That is, that phase of play had come to an end and the ball was ‘dead’. He was very close to the goal mouth.
During the case at Central London County Court, the judge heard the two groups of friends had hired the Middlesex Stadium, in Ruislip, for the game. Pictured: Mr Coppins and his girlfriend
‘Suddenly and without warning, and as he was about to turn away to his left, he was tackled by someone from his right and rear who made such violent contact with his right leg that he suffered comminuted fractures to the right tibia and fibula.
‘It is Mr Coppins’ case that the ball was not in play, that the incident did not come about due to a legitimate challenge by two opposing players trying to gain possession of a ‘loose’ ball, and, if deployed, that the phrase ’50/50 ball’ is entirely inappropriate.’
Mr Coppins told the judge he had been standing with both feet planted on the ground seconds after having scored his hattrick when the tackle came flying in.
‘I had both feet on the ground with my studs in the floor – that’s how my leg broke,’ he said.
But, for Mr Wrigley, Jibreel Tramboo insisted he had simply made ‘an error of judgement’ and had no intent to commit a ‘grotesque act of foul play.’
He was ‘already committed to the slide tackle when the ball left Billy’s feet,’ he told the judge.
Giving evidence, Mr Wrigley told the judge: ‘I tried to get myself in between the ball and the goal to block the shot. I didn’t intend to hurt him at all.
‘The ball was moving. The player and I both went for the ball and collided. When you are tapping the ball ahead of you at that speed it gets ahead of you and gets free.
‘When I made the tackle he was about to kick the ball. I tried to block the shot. He’s come from one side and I came from the other.’
Mr Coppins sued Mr Wrigley for ‘trespass to the person’ and negligence, but the judge found against him.
Giving judgment, she rejected the claims Mr Wrigley became increasingly frustrated as the match wore on to suggest an incident between the two might occur.
Contact between the players in the minutes before the incident had not been a sign of Mr Wrigley’s frustration at losing and was ‘part and parcel of the game,’ she said.
‘I am satisfied that Mr Wrigley was doing no more than going for the ball,’ she said at Central London County Court.
‘I reject the contention that he was ‘going for the man’…It was a last-ditch tackle and, as it transpires, it was a misjudgement.’
She went on: ‘I find the claimant and defendant had engaged with each other in the ordinary course of the match.
‘It is a contact sport and I find their engagement prior to the tackle was part and parcel of the game.
‘I am not persuaded their interaction had been such that when the defendant saw the claimant running towards an open goal ‘the red mist descended’ and the defendant deliberately intended to ‘take out’ the claimant or was somehow acting in retribution.’
She said: ‘I accept evidence that it was effectively a goal line last-ditch tackle. Once committed in that way I find the defendant’s sole intent and purpose was to stop the ball going across the line.
‘I am satisfied he failed, and the claimant scored and having scored the claimant’s leg had returned to the floor.’
She added: ‘I find that…the defendant was simply making the tackle as ‘he wanted to win.’
‘I do not consider the defendant was fully aware of the risk he was taking because I consider that at the time the defendant started his tackle he perceived he was in a position to get the ball and stop the claimant scoring.
‘I am not persuaded the defendant appreciated that his impending tackle carried a real risk of serious injury.
‘Whilst the court has every sympathy with the claimant and his unfortunate accident on my findings the claim fails in negligence and trespass.’