Neil Partington

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The intersection between the law of negligence and sport coaching in the UK is a developing area (Partington, 2014; Kevan, 2005). Crucially, since the law of negligence may be regarded as generally similar everywhere (Magnus, 2006), with the predominance of volunteer coaches in the UK reflective of the majority of countries in the world (Duffy et al., 2011), a detailed scrutiny of this relationship from the perspective of the coach uncovers important implications for coach education beyond this jurisdiction.  
Fulfilment of the legal duty of discharging reasonable care may be regarded as consistent with the ethical obligation not to expose athletes to unreasonable risks of injury (Mitten, 2013). More specifically, any ‘profession’ requiring ‘special skill or competence’ (Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 582), including the coaching of sport (e.g., Davenport v Farrow [2010] EWHC 550), requires a higher standard of care to be displayed than would be expected of the ordinary reasonable person (Lunney & Oliphant, 2013; Jones & Dugdale, 2010). For instance, volunteer coaches with no formal qualifications (e.g., Fowles v Bedfordshire County Council [1996] ELR 51) would be judged by this benchmark of professional liability (Powell & Stewart, 2012). Further, as the principles of coaching are constantly assessed and revised (Cassidy et al., 2009; Taylor & Garratt, 2010), so too is the legal standard of care required of coaches (Powell & Stewart, 2012). Problematically, ethical concerns may include coaches being unwilling to increase knowledge, abusive treatment of players and incompetence/inexperience (Haney et al., 1998). These factors accentuate coaches’ exposure to civil liability.
It is imperative that coaches have an awareness of this emerging intersection and develop a ‘proactive risk assessment lens’ (Hartley, 2010). In addition to supporting the professionalisation of sport coaching, coach education/CPD focused on the legal and ethical aspects of coaching (Duffy et al., 2011; Telfer, 2010; Haney et al., 1998) would enhance the safety and welfare of performers, safeguard coaches from litigation risk, and potentially improve all levels of coaching (Partington, 2014). Interestingly, there is evidence to suggest a demand from coaches for more training on health and safety issues, including risk management and (ir)responsible coaching (Stirling et al., 2012). Accordingly, critical examination of the issue of negligent coaching would inform coach education by: enabling the modelling and sharing of best practice; unpacking important ethical concerns; and, further informing the classification of coaching as a ‘profession’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2015
EventInternational Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) 10th Global Coach Conference - Vierumäki, Finland
Duration: 23 Aug 201525 Aug 2015


ConferenceInternational Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) 10th Global Coach Conference
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'MODERN SPORT COACHING AND THE LAW: IMPLICATIONS FOR COACH EDUCATION'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this