Sport: Over 150 former football, rugby players join concussion class-action lawsuit against governing bodies

Former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman.
Former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman. Photo credit: Getty Images

A group of more than 150 former soccer, rugby league, and rugby union players suffering from neurological impairments are due to join a class-action lawsuit against their respective governing bodies, lawyers representing the players said.

London sports law firm Rylands Garth said it would issue proceedings in court on behalf of 100 rugby league players, 40 rugby union players, and 15 football players, taking the total number of claimants to 380.

The players allege that the sports' governing bodies failed to protect them from concussion and non-concussion injuries that caused various disorders including early onset dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease.

"Acting on the latest science, evidence and independent expert guidance, we constantly strive to safeguard and support all our players' future, current, and former...," World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU), and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said in a joint statement.

"As has been the position since December 2020 when these claims were first made, we remain unable to comment on the specifics of the legal action as we continue to await the full details of the claims being made against us."

Reuters has contacted RFL and soccer's governing body FIFA for comment.

In recent months, World Rugby has also recommended the tackle height be lowered in the amateur game and pointed to studies in France and South Africa that showed positive advancements in terms of player safety and overall game experience.

Rylands Garth represents over 250 rugby union players with brain damage, including England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and former Wales captain Ryan Jones, in a claim against World Rugby and the governing bodies of England and Wales, while former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman is also part of the class action.

The firm also represents 100 rugby league players as part of a separate but similar potential claim against England's RFL.

Former British & Irish Lion Dafydd James, who joined the claim, said his early onset dementia diagnosis could explain his mental health struggles.

"In a way, it probably highlights that I've got a little bit of an answer about why I feel the way I do," the 42-year-old former Wales international told the BBC.

"I think there's a duty of care on both sides to make it safer so there's longevity and the game can move forward."

World Rugby, RFU, and WRU responded to James's comments, saying, "We care deeply about every member of the rugby family and have been saddened by the brave personal accounts of Dafydd and other former players who are struggling with health issues."