Sport and Leisure Management:
Case study analysis
Managers in the leisure industry are required to be aware of a plethora of different issues. Naturally, ensuring the use of effective management tools is of paramount concern. However, in addition to academic and theoretical processes of management practice, leisure managers also need to have a graduated knowledge of the law (Robinson; 2004). The majority of leisure facilities the United Kingdom are open to the public. Therefore, a full and comprehensive knowledge of the law in relation to how it applies to public facilities in the leisure industry is vital. If such practices are not fully and comprehensively undertaken, then the leisure facilities can be open to a wide array of legal actions which will impact heavily, not only on their financial sanctity, but also their reputations (Robinson; 2004).
Therefore, ensuring that leisure managers can apply the law to their facilities and ensure that they are in full accordance with legal provisions is paramount. Given this, the focus of this paper is to address and examine the legal issues which arise from one of the two case studies provided. This paper will utilise the second case study. It will be shown that a number of legal issues arise from the case study in terms of the operational management adopted at the leisure facility in question. Therefore, this work will seek to examine these legal issues and offer conclusions as to how the facility could ensure future effective practice which is conducive with legislative requirements. In addition to the case study example, this paper will also give reference to other examples where legislative issues have arisen in a leisure facility. Thus, the case study assessment undertaken in this paper will be conceptualised within the broader framework of law in sport and leisure management. However, before this detailed assessment is carried out, it is first prudent to briefly outline the primary features of the case study in order that analysis is based on a firm foundation.
The case study in question centres on a local swimming pool which is having a five-yearly maintenance carried out. The maintenance requires that the pool is emptied and not used for three weeks. Various actions needs to be taken by staff, however, the main works in the structural maintenance of the pool is carried out by contractors. Given that the pool is closed for the duration of the works, the entire building is closed to the public.
However, although the pool is closed, a group of drunken teenagers gain access to the building. One member of the group takes a running jump at the pool. Due to the room being dark, the person in question cannot see that the pool is empty and thus seriously injures himself.
There are a number of legal issues which arise from the case study in relation to the actions of the management at the pool. Firstly, although contractors are carrying out the majority of the works on the pool, existing staff nonetheless have to carry out cleaning operations. As such, all the usual issues relating to employment law would be applicable in this case. The leisure manager must ensure that all staff are trained properly and understand the various dangers and possible problems which may arise (Hurd & Meldrum; 2008). In order that the staff are fully aware of such issues, the leisure manager would be required to undertake detailed and comprehensive risks assessments. Hurd & Meldrum (2008) suggest that the legal foundation for risk assessments rests on the Health and Safety At Work Regulations 1999. This legislation does not outline in detail the specific kind of risk assessment which should be carried out; however, the general requirement is that possible risks need to be made clear to staff members prior to them beginning their employment.
The assessment above therefore shows the extent to which leisure managers are required to have an effective understanding of employment law. However, although the issue of employment law is central to the job description of a leisure manager, for the purposes of the present case study, employment law is not hugely important. Therefore, in order to fully explicate the legal issues which arise in the case study, it is necessary to look at issues beyond those relating to the employment of staff.
Above all, the main issue in relation to the case study lies in the public access to the pool. As suggested, the pool as to be closed for the duration of the time it takes to carry out the maintenance works. As such, the public would be aware that the pool was closed. Given this, the usual issues relating to legal provisions in terms of public access may not necessarily be applicable. For example, in relation to social exclusion and general discrimination, Robinson (2004) suggests that leisure managers need to ensure that their centres adopt an inclusive approach to the members of the public who use their facilities. However, in this case study, the need to ensure legal considerations such as those laid out in the Race Relations Act 2000 or the Equality Act 2010 are not of concern (Robinson, 2004).
However, there are nonetheless a variety of legal concerns which do arise from the event which took place in the case study. In particular, the paramount legal issue of concern is whether the management of the pool can be held legally accountable for the accident and subsequent injuries sustained by the young man who jumped into the pool. Whether the facility can be held accountable for this accident centres on a number of different issues. One could be forgiven for thinking that as the group of teenagers illegally entered the building when it was closed, there could be no legal foundation on which to base a case against the facility. Naturally, the fact that illegal entry led to the accident would inevitably be considered by the court when sentencing is given. Indeed, Torkildsen (2005) uses a case study example to highlight this point. In March 1999 a young man who had been drinking entered a gymnasium when it was closed by using a fire exit which had been left open. The young man suffered injury in the gym as a result of tripping over weights which had been left out on the floor. The court found that the gym was responsible for the injury sustained because they had failed to ensure effective risk assessment was carried out. However, when the sentence was passed on the gym, the judge did take into account for the role played by the young man and the condition he was in at the time (Torkildsen, 2005). Thus, this example has enormous connotations with the case study assessed in this paper.
In particular, the central legal issue of concern with regards to this case study is negligence. In the case study provided by Torkildsen (2005), the court found that the gym in question had been negligent by allowing access to the building when it was closed. Now before detailed assessment of how the case study example fits with the issue negligence is provided, it is first necessary to outline the concept of negligence and its application in relation to leisure facilities.
Fullbrook (2005) points out that the issue of negligence essentially dates to 1963 and the case of Wooldridge v Summer. In this case, a court found that a man who had been injured by a horse at a show did not have a legal case against the organisers of the show because negligence on the part of the latter could not be sustained. The court felt that as the man had been aware of the fact horses would be at the venue, he was thus aware of any potential dangers (Fullbrook, 2005). The case of Wooldridge v Summer is important in relation to the case study because if negligence on the part of the facility management could be proved, then the young man who injured himself in the empty pool would have legal grounds on which to base a case. Thus, the central question is whether the actions of the facility management constitute negligence.
One feels that the ultimate conclusion to make in relation to the case study is that actions of the facility management could indeed be considered to be negligent. A number of issues support this conclusion. For example, the first issue of concern lies in the fact that the group of teenagers were able to gain access to the building in the first place. The leisure management should have ensured that the building was fully locked so that no-one could gain access from outside. However, given that the teenagers were able to gain access through an open window, it could be argued that negligence occurred on the part of the management. In particular, had the window been closed it would not have been possible for the group to get inside the building without forcing an entry. Had the group chosen to forcefully enter the building, the alarms would have sounded. However, because the open window did not trigger the alarms, the group was able to access the building unimpeded.
The important point to take from the above outline is the fact that forces entry did not take place. Had the group forcibly entered the building, then it would have proved considerably difficult to lay a charge of negligence with the management. However, because access to the building was gained without force, the management’s failure to ensure that the building was properly secured could certainly be viewed as negligent.
The issue of negligence is also closely linked with the concept of duty of care. Duty of care is a very important issue of concern for leisure management practice (James; 2010). Given that public entry into leisure facilities is a common feature of such facilities, the management has a duty of care to ensure that the pubic are protected from any possible harm. Hartley (2001) suggests that in order for duty of care practices to be effectively provided in a leisure facility, it is essential for management to ensure that comprehensive risk assessments are undertaken. If such risk assessments are inadequate, then a lack of duty of care could result in legal prosecution. In the case study provided, the young man who jumped into the pool could not see that the pool was empty. Effective risk assessments would have highlighted the essential need to ensure that the pool was effectively lit. This need constitutes a duty of care because even though the building was closed, the management can still be held accountable for accidents that take place inside. In particular, given that the group was able to access the building, this means that the management are culpable for anything which occurs inside, just as they would be if the pool was open.
Therefore, the management of the leisure facility in the case study could be found to have been negligent by leaving the window open. Moreover, the management could also have been seen to have failed in terms of their duty of care responsibilities because the pool room did not have adequate lighting. In order that this conclusion is based on a firm analytical foundation, it is necessary to outline the legal provisions which can be used in relation to duty of care, and also provide some case study examples which exemplify the points made above.
Robinson (2004) suggests that the legal foundation of duty of care is contained within the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. This act specifies the responsibilities of those who manage facilities open to the public and also provides a comprehensive basis on which to further claims for negligence or poor duty of care. Robinson (2004) outlines how a leisure facility in Dorset was subject to the provisions of the 1974 act because it failed to ensure that adequate lighting was maintained in the changing rooms. Naturally, the issue of adequate lighting is central to the provided case study. Moreover, it is important to emphasise the fact that although the facility was closed, the fact that an open window provided access means that duty of care provisions can be applied. Therefore, in light of the fact that negligence on the part of the facility management can be seen to have occurred, in conjunction with the case study example provided by Robinson (2004), then legal action against the facility for failing to ensure a duty of care could in theory be undertaken.
Furthermore, in addition to the issue of poor lighting, a duty of care consideration could be raised in relation to whether the management of the facility in the case study had effectively ensured that anyone coming into the pool area would be aware of the fact it was empty. The details provided in the case study do not specify whether the management had placed any signs around the pool warning that it was empty. However, although this detail is not available in the case study, it is nevertheless essential to outline how such provision would make a difference in terms of duty of care.
Hurd & Meldrum (2008) suggest that duty of care considerations occur in a variety of leisure settings. In particular, if work or cleaning is being undertaken, then the management of the leisure facility need to ensure that some form of indication is given to highlight the process being undertaken and the possible risk it posses to the public (Hurd & Meldrum, 2008). If for example a floor was being cleaned without some form of effective sign highlighting the cleaning, then the facility would be legally culpable if an accident occurred as a consequence of the cleaning being undertaken. The same legal principles of duty of care can be applied to the case study. If the management had ensured that public awareness of the pool being empty was properly in place, then the charge that the facility failed to meet its responsibilities in relation to duty of care could be countered. Given that no indication of such awareness is present in the case study, one must conclude that the management assumed the closure of the facility made such provisions unnecessary. However, the provisions of duty of care can still be applied in this case because the appropriation of negligence is applicable.
In conclusion, this paper has addressed the primary legal issues which arise as a result of the case study provided. The simple conclusion which could inevitably be reached from the case study is that the young man who was injured was responsible for his own actions and should not have been in the building when the accident took place. However, as has been outlined above, the provisions of duty of care and negligence do not conform to this simplified outlook. Thus, the fact that the window in the First Aid Room was left open, in addition to the failure in ensuring that the area around the pool was subject to effective risk management means that the facility can be held legally accountable for the accident and the damage caused to the young man. Thus, damages in the form of compensation would be the most likely verdict of a court.
Fullbrook, J (2005) Outdoor Activities, Negligence and the Law. London: Ashgate.
Hartley, H (2001) Exploring Sport and Leisure Disasters: a socio-legal perspective. London: Routledge.
Hurd, A.R & Meldrum, J.T (2008) Leisure Services Management. London: Human Kinetics.
James, M (2010) Sports Law. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Robinson, L (2004) Managing Public Sport and Leisure Services. London: Routledge.
Torkildsen, G (2005) Leisure and Recreation Management. London: Routledge.