Blackpool FC await court ruling on appeal over abuse damages

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Blackpool Football Club bosses are waiting for a ruling on an appeal after being ordered to pay £19,000 in damages to a man abused by a former “scout” as a youth footballer.

 

The man, now in his 40s, was abused when he was 13 by paedophile Frank Roper during a youth football tour to New Zealand in the summer of 1987, judges have heard.

He sued Blackpool and argued that the club was “vicariously liable”.

Mr Justice Griffiths ruled in his favour and ordered Blackpool to pay more than £19,000 after a High Court hearing in March 2020.

Blackpool FC is arguing Frank Roper was the equivalent to a "contractor".Blackpool FC is arguing Frank Roper was the equivalent to a “contractor”.

Lawyers representing Blackpool asked three appeal judges to overturn the ruling, arguing Roper was not a “quasi employee”.

Lady Justice Macur, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Sir Stephen Richards finished considering arguments at a Court of Appeal hearing in London on Thursday (July 22).

They said they would deliver a ruling on a date to be fixed.

Judges have ruled that the man cannot be identified in media reports of the case.

Fighting for justice for Blackpool residents denied access to the law

Roper, a former businessman who died in 2005, had convictions for indecent assaults on boys dating back to the 1960s, judges heard.

He had been a Blackpool fan, ran a youth team in Stockport, Great Manchester, and owned a sports shop in Blackpool.

Mr Justice Griffiths concluded that Roper had been a “Blackpool scout” and decided that his Nova Juniors side was a “Blackpool feeder team”.

He concluded that the relationship between Roper and Blackpool was one “capable of giving rise to vicarious liability”.

The man had told Mr Justice Griffiths how he had met Mr Roper when 11.

He said Roper had been a well-known local football scout who had scouted him to play for the Blackpool school of excellence.

Mr Justice Griffiths said he accepted the man’s account of the abuse he had suffered on the New Zealand trip.

Michael Kent QC, who is leading Blackpool’s legal team, argued that the club had not controlled Roper.

He told appeal judges that Roper had been a “completely free agent” and the equivalent of an “independent contractor”.

Judges heard that Roper had brought Paul Stewart and David Bardsley, who both played for England, to Blackpool when they were schoolboys.