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Electrician, 34, who claimed leg was deliberately broken during football match, loses £150,000 in court fight

An electrician who claimed his leg was deliberately broken by a defender during a football match with friends has lost a lawsuit to claim £150,000.

Billy Coppins, 34, blamed a tackle by Tony Wrigley during the November 2005 friendly in North London for his horror injury.

Coppins had both bones in his right lower leg shattered by the challenge, which he said came in so late that the ball was already ‘back of the net’.

It was electrician Mr Coppins’ third goal in the game, giving his side a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes, having already converted a penalty awarded by Mr Wrigley for handball.

He took the defender to court, claiming he was deliberately trying to injure him because he had been ‘clipped’ in the loss and the ‘red fog had settled’.

But Coppins’ claim was dismissed last week by Judge Heather Baucher QC, who said the injury was the result of a ‘last-ditch’ attempt by Wrigley to stop a goal.

Billy Coppins (center, with his girlfriend and lawyer), 34, blames a tackle by Tony Wrigley during the North London friendly in November 2005 for his horror injury

Billy Coppins (center, with his girlfriend and lawyer), 34, blames a tackle by Tony Wrigley during the North London friendly in November 2005 for his horror injury

But a judge ruled last week that the tackle was simply 'part of a 'contact sport'.  Pictured: Wrigley (center) exits court

But a judge ruled last week that the tackle was simply ‘part of a ‘contact sport’. Pictured: Wrigley (center) exits court

During the case at the Central London County Court, the judge learned that the two groups of friends had rented Middlesex Stadium, in Ruislip, for the match.

It was for ‘fun’ and was to be followed by beer and fireworks, while a young flight attendant was brought in to act as a non-professional referee.

The striker’s lawyer Andrew McNamara told the judge: “Mr Wrigley seemed increasingly frustrated with his team’s lack of success and his behavior on the pitch began to deteriorate.

“After about 30 minutes into the first half, Mr Coppins scored a third goal after beating the opposing goalkeeper and tapping the ball over the line.

That is to say, that phase of play had come to an end and the ball was ‘dead’. He was very close to the target mouth.

During the case at the Central London County Court, the judge learned that the two groups of friends had rented Middlesex Stadium, in Ruislip, for the match.  In the photo: Mr Coppins and his girlfriend

During the case at the Central London County Court, the judge learned that the two groups of friends had rented Middlesex Stadium, in Ruislip, for the match. In the photo: Mr Coppins and his girlfriend

Suddenly and without warning, and as he was about to turn left, he was tackled from right and behind by someone who made such violent contact with his right leg that he suffered shattered fractures to the right tibia and fibula.

‘It is Mr Coppins’ case that the ball was out of play, that the incident did not come about as a result of a legitimate challenge by two opponents attempting to gain control of a ‘loose’ ball, and, if deployed, that the phrase ’50/50 ball’ is totally inappropriate.”

Coppins told the judge he had his feet on the ground seconds after scoring his hat-trick when the tackle came in.

“I was standing with both feet on the ground with my studs in the floor — that’s how my leg broke,” he said.

But for Mr. Wrigley, Jibreel Tramboo insisted he had simply made “an error of judgment” and had no intention of committing a “grotesque act of foul play.”

He was “already committed to the slide tackle when the ball left Billy’s feet,” he told the judge.

Wrigley gave in evidence, telling the judge, “I tried to get myself between the ball and the goal to block the shot. I had no intention of hurting him at all.

“The ball moved. The player and I both went for the ball and collided with each other. If you tap the ball in front of you at that speed, it will come in front of you and come free.

“When I made the tackle, he was about to kick the ball. I tried to block the shot. He comes from one side and I from the other.’

Coppins sued Wrigley for “violation of the person” and negligence, but the judge ruled against him.

She issued a verdict, dismissing claims that Mr Wrigley grew increasingly frustrated as the match progressed to suggest an incident could take place between the two.

The contact between the players in the minutes before the incident was not a sign of Wrigley’s frustration at the loss and was “an essential part of the game,” she said.

“I am pleased that Mr Wrigley did nothing more than go for the ball,” she said in Central London County Court.

“I reject the claim that he ‘went for the man’… It was a last-ditch effort and, as it turns out, it was a misjudgment.”

She continued: “I believe that the plaintiff and the defendant had been in contact in the normal course of the match.

“It’s a contact sport and I think their involvement prior to the tackle was an essential part of the game.

“I am not convinced that their interaction had been such that when the defendant saw the plaintiff run to an open target ‘the red mist descended’ and the defendant deliberately ‘eliminated’ the plaintiff or acted in some way in retaliation .’

She said: ‘I accept the evidence that it was in fact a final tackle on the goal line. Once I was committed in that way, I discovered that the defendant’s sole intent and purpose was to prevent the ball from going over the line.

“I am convinced that he failed, and the plaintiff scored and after he scored, the plaintiff’s leg was back on the ground.”

She added: “I think… the defendant just pretended to do the tackle ‘he wanted to win’.

“I think the defendant was not fully aware of the risk he was taking because I believe that the moment the defendant started his tackle, he understood that he was in a position to get the ball and the plaintiff to stop scoring.

“I am not convinced that the defendant realized that his impending tackle carried a real risk of serious injury.

“While the court has every sympathy with the plaintiff and his unfortunate misfortune on my findings, the claim fails for negligence and misdemeanor.”

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