Sweeney: RFU had no contact over concussion lawsuit

Rugby

LONDON — Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney has said English rugby officials have yet to receive any legal contact from the group of former players preparing claims for negligence against national unions.

Steve Thompson, one of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winners, former England flanker Michael Lipman and former Wales flanker Alix Popham were in the group which said they are preparing lawsuits against the English RFU, the Welsh Rugby Union, and global governing body World Rugby.

Sweeney insisted on Friday the RFU has not yet received any legal contact over the issue — but also said nobody at the organisation has yet spoken to former hooker Thompson.

Thompson said he is one of the ex-players suffering early dementia symptoms in their 40s, and admitted he cannot remember any of England’s matches at the 2003 World Cup.

“It’s important to point out that we haven’t received any formal legal approaches yet,” Sweeney told reporters. “So all we’re knowledgeable at is what we’re reading currently in the media.

“We don’t have any specific case or specific conditions laid out, so it’s a bit premature really and hypothetical to speculate on what’s going there.

“And we haven’t got into any detailed discussions on insurance or cover because we don’t know the nature of what’s been presented yet.”

Sweeney said they tried to contact Thompson this week but haven’t connected.

He pledged the RFU will remain “open and transparent” in reacting to the specific situation, but also in continuing its work to minimize concussions and improve player safety in rugby.

“It’s a very serious matter, a very serious moment for us; we all love this game,” Sweeney added. “First and foremost in these legalistic times this is very much a human story.

“And we recognize what’s happening here, we recognize the difficulties the families are going through, and then bringing these stories into the public … to improve the game and make it better and safer for future generations.

“We would certainly share that and take it to heart. And it’s impossible not to be moved by it. It’s not a time to hide, not a time to go missing; it’s really a time to be open and transparent.”

Sweeney also said the RFU does not have any plan for monitoring or testing retired players when it comes to head or brain injuries.

He added: “It’s not to say that’s something we wouldn’t do. If that’s something we need to consider and build in, then we’ll look at that. It’s important to stress that the aim to make the sport safer, and all the work that goes into that, that’s a journey that has no conclusion to it.”

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