Durham cricket club fined £18,000 over woman’s injuries during England match

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Durham County Cricket Club has been fined £18,000 over injuries suffered by a spectator during an England international.

A woman suffered serious injuries after deckboards on the North East Terrace stand at the Emirates Riverside ground fell through.

The club was hosting a match between England and the West Indies on September 16 2017 when four spectators were injured.

Prosecutor James Hill told Teesside Crown Court on Friday that one of the four has still not come forward but reported “putting his foot through a board” before the match.

England v West Indies – NatWest
The incident happened during a game between England and West Indies (Richard Sellers/PA)

The court was told that the stand was bought from Arena in 2012 and had been previously used during the 2012 Olympics in London.

Mr Hill said the cricket club did not have a contract with Arena but it sent out a staff member to demonstrate how to replace the boards.

The club also worked with Jasper Kerr, an engineering consultancy, which had previously carried out visual inspections on the stand and, in the days before the incident, had “sent an email to the club to ask Arena if they were happy with the deflection on the boards and if they were satisfied the standard (of the boards) was safe”.

Mr Hill added: “It is not clear whether they realised Arena did not have a contract to maintain the stand.”

The court heard that spectators were allowed into the ground at around 4pm on September 16, and one soon reported that his foot had fallen through a board and his knee had been injured.

Mr Hill said the board was replaced but the man could not be found. He added that just after 8pm, another board had “failed” but no one was injured.

The prosecutor said the third incident, which injured three spectators, happened just after 9pm, shortly before the match finished.

Part of the stand was cleared after the incident
Part of the stand was cleared after the incident (Richard Sellers/PA)

“Eyewitnesses estimated she fell around 20 feet but investigators say it was three feet.

“The man she let pass described how the board gave way like a trap door. He was next to her as it gave way, but he was able to grab the back of the seats in front, stopping himself falling all of the way through and he was helped by others.”

Mr Hill said that as spectators turned to help, another board two rows in front also fell through. Another woman stopped herself falling through by “putting her arms either side of the gap”.

Three people were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where the first woman underwent surgery to have a metal rod inserted into her leg after suffering a fractured femur.

The court heard the man suffered a torn hamstring and the second woman sustained bruising and what she described as “psychological harm”.

Mr Hill said: “Only after this (the incident) happened the stand was evacuated and closed.”

He added that a spokesman for the club said a safety officer “always carried out checks 24 hours before an event and found no issues”.

Lord Ian Botham, chairman of Durham County Cricket Club and former England star, described the incident in a statement as “embarrassing” and a “mistake”.

Ian Botham
Lord Ian Botham said the club ‘wholeheartedly apologises for this enormously embarrassing incident’ (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I would hope that the court would appreciate that we are desperately sorry that the people that we serve come to watch the game at its highest level suffered injury through no fault of their own but the standards of the stands.

“It was a genuine mistake. The club wholeheartedly apologises for this enormously embarrassing incident.”

Mr Antrobus told the court that a safety officer had carried out an investigation on the stand before the match and did not find the boards to have the same “spongy” feel of those that had been replaced earlier in the week.

As well as the fine for failing to discharge a duty to a person other than an employee, Judge HK Crowson ordered the club to pay costs of £94,132 within three months and a surcharge of £170.

He said the club has since made changes to make the ground safer and added: “This is not a case where a fine must be increased above the norm to force a club to understand safety, when obligation is already understood.”

The judge said “it was clear it (the club) had systems in place” to check the safety of the stands and it had “the safety of the spectators at heart”.

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