Brett Horsnell case: Beginning of an avalanche?
It has finally happened. An athlete taking a club or federation to court for lack of care post transition. In Australia, Brett Horsnell is taking his NRL club Parramatta Eels to court. It is a landmark case. Thousands of former athletes will read about it and wonder if they too have a case to bring against the sporting associations that thrived off their sporting prowess, but were nowhere to be seen when it was all over.
Until fairly recently, athlete welfare and preparation for retirement was way down the list of priorities for many sporting organisations. For some, it didn’t even exist. For post retirement support, it continues to be even more scant. The NRL tends to be one of the better sporting organisations in terms of looking after “their own” post retirement. So what about the thousands of sporting organisations that have absolutely nothing in place?
If Brett Horsnell is successful, we could see an avalanche of similar cases around the world.
Several factors are at play. If athletes didn’t use the services available to them, which is common, then it will be hard to convince a court of negligence on behalf of the organisation. It is a whole different ball game if the services didn’t exist to begin with.
Every year, hundreds of athletes come off the elite sports conveyer belt in various states of physical and mental distress. For some, it is only the beginning of a whole world of pain that they could never have imagined. As is the case with Horsnell.
Clubs, sporting bodies and federations all over the world will be watching this case with bated breath and some will be very nervous.
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