While affirming the potential of conflict between people, the provisions of law and associated rules, regulations and policies in response to antisocial and criminal behaviors basically highlights their importance in upholding peace and maintaining social order. The laws and regulations applies to individuals as well as corporations including those in the field of sports where established rules may be broken and probably resulting in negative outcomes like physical injury. Since professionals in sports as well as their institutions are subject to established rules and regulations under the law, it is vital that they understand how those laws apply to them and their operations considering that law breaking has various negative consequences. For instance, sports facility managers have a duty to ensure that participants such as swimmers are not exposed to harm especially when they are not informed; leading to lawsuits against the swimming establishment for negligence. Generally, negligence is a provision in law where harm caused by various parties (coaches, instructors) due to carelessness is subject to compensation to the plaintiff. This liability, among other types, reflects why sport facility owners must be careful of negligence as they may lose money through lawsuits filed against them by clients. Negligence

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Fundamentally, negligence falls under tort law where tort is generally regarded as a legal wrong that can be remedied through compensation in a court of law. Specifically, negligence is an unintentional tort where harm against others is unintentional and occurs when a party (sports professionals) owes a duty of care to the plaintiff (users, participants) but breaches that duty resulting in injuries or harm to the plaintiff. The duty of care primarily entails failure in doing something that a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances or doing something that a reasonable person would not have done to cause an injury. This is affirmed in the case law, Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd, where duty of care is viewed in terms of adherence to standards of reasonable care in performance of acts with foreseeable harm to others.

Negligence, as aforementioned, leads to compensation for the harm caused which is provided in terms of general, special or punitive damages. General damages are rewarded in terms of level of pain and suffering experienced by the plaintiff while punitive damage focusses on punishing the defendant instead of rewarding the plaintiff. Special damages on the other hand entail provision of monetary gains such as when property is damaged, medical bills to be paid or lost wages. The impact is that sports facility owners have to pay out money for such rewards as well as costs of litigation which generally reduces a firm’s profits. For instance, injury to swimmers due to swimming pool managers’ negligent acts in not installing rungs, appropriate signage or handlebars may lead to costly lawsuits against the facility and its managers. Further, design of badminton courts or outside pool surfaces that are unnecessarily slippery without signage may lead to costly damages. Schot (2005) also highlights potential for criminal liability in cases involving assault, manslaughter and gross negligence even though this is highlighted as a tall order as associated cases are bound to be complex.

Firms may also be liable for damages if they engage in negligent hiring practices especially in relation to holding events that require close interaction with facility users and participants (Ammon Jr., Southall & Nagel, 2010). Specifically, facility owners have a duty to its customers regarding exercise of reasonable care in hiring fit employees that do not pose a threat to users and participants. For instance, indoor facilities including aerobic rooms, gyms and badminton courts packed together with numerous rooms may require facility managers not to hire unfit employees like repeat child sexual offender where children use these facilities. This explains why sports Facilities must be careful of negligence even though it may also pit them against other laws regarding discrimination. This falls closely to aspects of vicarious liability where employers like facility managers are liable for the behavior of their employees especially in relation to hiring competent personnel. For instance, a gym that employs self-taught instructors without academic qualifications may be liable for injuries on their patrons when reasonable care could have been exercised by the instructor.

Besides the process of proving negligence being quite costly, lawsuits that receive much publicity or even incidents that circulate among facility users and participants may be harmful for facility managers in that it may destroy a firm’s reputation and hence lose customers. For example, fatal injuries in diving pools that result into long and highly publicized lawsuits that implicate the facility and its managers’ inability to provide safe environment for engaging in diving activities may lose customers who may fear suffering the same fate. This also applies to situations where facilities like aerobic studios and gyms predispose users and participants to higher levels of injuries where a single lawsuit amplifies fears of potentially grave injuries due to continued use and hence the relocation to other facilities. This underlies the assertion made by Ammon Jr., Southall & Nagel (2010) that the ‘importance of a facility manager’s having an understanding of negligence cannot be overstated’ considering the potential negative outcomes.

Having satisfied provision of proof of negligence in terms of elements like establishing duty and breach of care, cause and damage, it is evident that sports facility managers must be careful of negligence due to its potential negative outcomes in providing compensation. This calls for an understanding of relevant laws, regulations as well as legal principles that may impact the running of sports facilities especially in relation to payment of damages in lawsuits or destruction of a firm’s image and reputation; leading to loss of customers.

  • Ammon Jr., R., Southall, R. M. & Nagel, M. S. (2010). Sport facility management: Organizing events and mitigating risks. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
  • Schot, N. (2005). Negligent liability in sport. Sports Law eJournal Faculty of Law, 2, 1-14.