Court in the act

John Kirk explains why he intends to seek recompense in the courts for a lifetime of football-related trauma

In issuing proceedings against the FA and claiming compensation for “football trauma” after the now-notorious Mike Reed penalty decision, fans of Leicester City are shooting wide of the goal. Most shock and distress experienced by football fans is visited on them by the clubs to whom they devote their lives and it is the clubs who should be the target of any litigation.

Take my case, for instance. 14th November 1964. My first taste of professional football is a visit to Ashton Gate for a first-round FA Cup tie against Brighton and Hove Albion. The occasion is a schoolmate’s birthday treat. Kids had much lower expectations then. Both sides have a big, bustling centre-forward; Atyeo for Bristol City and Bobby Smith for Brighton. A Ray Savino goal is enough to see City through in front of a crowd of 12,618.

Life will never be the same for me. I immediately form an unquestioning allegiance to the fortunes of Bristol City, a tragic love affair whose psychological consequences have been pain, grief, more pain and a growing consciousness that my life expectancy has been curtailed. I shall therefore be seeking substantial damages against Chris Walker’s dad. Acting as he was in loco parentis he clearly owed a duty of care to his son’s friends and should reasonably have foreseen that in breaching this duty he was likely to precipitate irreparable damage to their young minds.

28th May 1988. Division Three Promotion Play-offs. Fellows Park, Walsall is the scene as City show great character in overcoming a two-goal deficit from the first leg and are pushing forward in the closing minutes.

The jury will hear how Mr Ralph Milne contrives to miss from close range after good work down the left from Mr Alan Walsh. I will show that Mr Milne has a contractual duty to take due care and exercise reasonable skill when finding himself six yards out with only the goalkeeper, Mr Fred Barber, to beat. In failing to show the skill of an average member of his trade he is clearly guilty of professional negligence and should pay exemplary damages. The aggregate score remains level and City are thrashed in the deciding game.

The only likely weakness in my case is that Counsel for Mr Milne may enter a plea of loss of amenity and/or diminished responsibility. It might be argued that the plaintiff is rotund and has a long record of impersonating a professional footballer, as would have been abundantly clear to Bristol City when they acquired his services.

13th December 1992. Division One. My very worst nightmare and a far more distressing experience than watching City go down, down and down again in successive seasons. The entire Bristol City team, substitutes included, find themselves in the dock after they are thumped 4-0 by the “Gas” at Twerton Park.

City fans have to endure the awful spectacle of Malcolm Allison telling whoever will listen that Rovers won because he had spent the week teaching the players how to kick the ball. The sad truth is that City have collectively redefined the term “inept” when used to describe performance in a team sport. My claim for aggravated damages is justified by the players’ joint and several liability for the emotional wellbeing of the supporters. The conduct of the defendants in the circumstances peculiar to a local derby has exacerbated my injury by subjecting me to humiliation, distress and embarrassment.

If successful I propose to shift my focus to the national side. My bête noire is not the Southgate penalty or the hand of God but rather that fateful June afternoon in León when England, 2-0 up with twenty minutes to go, crash out of the 1970 World Cup. This is the only time that a football match ever made me cry and someone has to pay. “A two-goal lead is difficult to defend,” will not suffice to get Sir Alf off the hook, and I am afraid that his co-defendant Peter Bonetti will have to explain again how he came to let in that “shot” from Beckenbauer. This may even be one for the European Convention on Human Rights.

From WSC 123 May 1997. What was happening this month