World Rugby CEO challenges concussion lawsuit numbers claim
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin has suggested that the number of former players involved in a concussion lawsuit is smaller than the public figure of almost 200.
Lawyers for the players are suing World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union for allegedly failing to “protect players from permanent injury”.
The claimants include ex-Wales captain Ryan Jones and England’s 2003 World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson, with many of the former players diagnosed with early-onset dementia and other irreversible neurological impairments.
Legal documentation has been submitted to all three organisations.
“When the original action was issued to us some time ago it was involving nine players. More recently, they have started to claim that number has grown significantly,” Gilpin told the Daily Telegraph.
“It’s not, as far as we can see, in the documentation provided to us quite at the number which is being suggested in some parts of the media.
“One concern is the approach being taken by some parties in that claim to apparently use the media effectively to recruit more players into that action.
“What we would say to those players who aren’t currently part of the action is can we have a dialogue about how we can all provide better support.
“A huge part of this is education, making sure we are pointing players to where that support does exist, or providing a structure where we can listen to them.
“We are now discussing with the International Rugby Players’ Association, national RPAs and other groups how we can provide better care for players who are coming to the end of their careers or have retired, and have concerns about mental health issues or related to dementia.”
Gilpin also said that World Rugby’s dialogue with player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby had stopped.
“We’ve had a lot of debate with Progressive Rugby over the last 12 months,” he added.
“To be honest, that dialogue has now stopped because there are a number of people we are now aware of involved in Progressive Rugby who are involved in the lawsuit, and therefore we can’t enter into the same direct dialogue with Progressive Rugby and some of those individuals as we could previously, and that in itself is a shame.”
Responding to Gilpin’s comments, a Progressive Rugby spokesperson said: “While we respected World Rugby’s decision to cease player welfare discussions, it was naturally disappointing given the critical need for genuinely independent voices to be at the table.
“It was also somewhat baffling given World Rugby had been aware, since our formation in February 2021, that we had a very small number of members who are involved in the litigation.
“However, what we do find incredibly frustrating and offensive is the inference that Progressive Rugby is part of, or somehow benefits from the ongoing litigation.
“Each member of Progressive Rugby gives their time for free, and we are fiercely proud that our only driver is the welfare of players and the continued success of the game.
“While we clearly have deep sympathy for those living with the effect of early onset dementia and CTE, our focus is solely on learning from the mistakes made in the past so we can better protect the current and future players of this great game.”
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