A shocker for every soccer club: legal battle could send shockwaves through sport

Paul Zoledziejewski, who sued the council (who are now appealing) after a football accident at Shelf Hall Park.
Paul Zoledziejewski, who sued the council (who are now appealing) after a football accident at Shelf Hall Park.

A FOOTBALLER is locked in a legal battle with Calderdale Council that could send shockwaves through amateur sport.

Paul “Zolly” Zoledziejewski’s playing days ended after a soccer match at Shelf Hall Park.

He suffered severe damage to knee ligaments when he made a sharp turn. A court heard his right foot stuck in a rut in the poorly maintained pitch.

The 33-year-old from of Norlandwas awarded £22,700 compensation by a judge at Dewsbury County Court.

Calderdale Council protested – and has now geen given permission to appeal against that ruling by London Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Gross.

He said: “Because of its potential ramifications, this case should be heard by the Court of Appeal. The ramifications for amateur sport are considerable.

“Not every accident on a football field is attributable to negligence. Conditions of pitches used in amateur games vary.”

Regarding the implications of the County Court judge’s decision, he said: “The upshot is there may be fewer pitches available for amateur sport.”

The appeal judge said in the days before Mr Zoledziejewski’s accident, referees had allowed three other matches to be played on the field and they passed without incident.

In his ruling, Dewsbury County Court’s Judge John Cockroft said “dangerous discrepancies” had been left in the pitch – holes, divots and tyre tracks – in the wake of the annual Shelf Gala in July 2007.

And he was “mindful of the nature and requirements of amateur football played in our parks nationwide” and agreed it “would not be realistic or sensible to set a standard which requires football pitches to be maintained to bowling green standard.”

Shef Utd secretary Nigel Smith had twice complained to the council about the state of the pitch warning referees could declare it “not fit to play on” and the start of the club’s season might have to be delayed.

Speaking after the appeal hearing Mr Zoledziejewski, a mechanic, said he had not received any compensation so far.

He quit football following the injury which still troubles him and he is likely to have a plastic knee implant.

Mr Zoledziejewski said there were exceptional circumstances surrounding his case.

“The gala was a factor in this,” he said.

“We had copies of emails which the council had done nothing about and emails are part of the evidence.”

Calderdale Council said it wouldn’t comment on a sub-judice case.

The appeal will now be heard before three Appeal Court judges on a date to be fixed.