Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best Tortoise experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help, let us know at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com

Sensemaker audio

Football’s duty of care

Football’s duty of care

After Christian Eriksen collapsed on the football pitch, it was left to the players to decide whether to carry on with the match.



transcript

Claudia Williams:

I’m Claudia – and this is Sensemaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, the football player who’s calling out UEFA’s negligence.

***

“There’s good news regarding Christian Eriksen that he is awake and that he’s stable. He’s in hospital after collapsing on the pitch during Denmark’s game against Finland in their opening Euro 2020 game. It happened just before half time, extremely worrying scenes….”

Sky Sports News

On Saturday, during a group stage game against Finland in the Euros, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen collapsed just before half time.

“Goodness he’s gone down there, Eriksen that’s worrying. Well this is really disturbing…”

BBC Sport

Denmark’s captain Simon Kjaer rushed over to his teammate to clear his airways and medical staff quickly joined him. As the medics administered CPR… led by their captain, the team formed a ring around Christian Eriksen to give him some privacy from the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium and the millions watching on television.

But although what happened to Christian Eriksen was distressing… and although there’s little doubt Simon Kjaer was a hero in helping to save him, there was another player on the pitch that day who tells an even bigger story. 

Kasper Schmeichel.

Now you may or may not have heard of him… but he’s the goalkeeper for both Leicester City and Denmark. His dad is Peter Schmeichel, a former Man United star.

And when the game resumed (a controversial decision we’ll come on to a bit later)… all eyes were on Kasper Schmeichel because… less than 20 minutes after starting up again, he let in a goal the fans knew he’d usually save. 

“It lands right in front of Schmeichel doesn’t it.”

BBC Sport

It looked as if Kasper Schmeichel’s mind was elsewhere. And how could it not be? He’d just seen his teammate collapse, he’d gone over to comfort Christian Eriksen’s distraught wife, and he’d also helped lead his teammates in deciding what to do while Christian Eriksen received medical attention. 

So the question is: did the football authorities have a duty of care to Kasper Schmeichel and his team mates which they failed to live up to that day? 

***

Now this isn’t the first time Kasper Schmeichel has shown leadership dealing with a traumatic event on the football pitch.

Now you might be thinking, why weren’t these jobs protected by the furlough scheme? Well Rishi Sunak’s decision to extend furlough back in November came a little too late.

“All we seen was the helicopter above the football ground spiralling out of control and then we just seen it hit the floor. A big ball of fire just went up, it’s absolutely awful.”

Fan speaking to BBC News

Back in 2018, the owner of Leicester City Football Club was on a helicopter with four others when it crashed and burst into flames, just minutes after taking off from the King Power Stadium.

Kasper Schmeichel had been showing his family round the stadium after the game… he’d waved goodbye to the chairman as the helicopter took off. 

“Well I’d been at the match and I was standing at the front you know and sort of standing by the barriers and then Schmeichel came running out and then all the stewards came out and the security men…”

Fan speaking to HaytersTV

As the helicopter began to spiral, Kasper Schmeichel came running out of the tunnel and round the side of the stadium. He shouted for people to call the emergency services as he sprinted towards the burning helicopter… before realising there was nothing he could do.

“I think you come across in your life very few people who kind of hit you and really kind of impact you… he had a really big impact on my life…”

Kasper Schmeichel

Kasper Schmeichel has seen someone he cares about in football die in front of him once before. UEFA’s decision to continue the game on Saturday when Christian Eriksen wasn’t completely out of danger has raised some serious questions. 

***

UEFA gave the players three options. To continue the game that night… to play at noon the next day… or to forfeit the game 3-0. Only once they knew Christian Eriksen was awake in hospital, the players agreed to continue.

But 20 minutes after the restart, Denmark’s captain Simon Kjaer had to come off the pitch after being too overwhelmed to carry on. Denmark’s coach admitted his players were “emotionally done” and exhausted after watching their teammate collapse.

And so Kasper Schmeichel has now spoken out against UEFA, criticising the body for putting players in a position they should not have been put in. 

“The question is obviously I think a decision about the game should probably not have been made in the heat of the moment. I think it would probably have been a wise decision to maybe change their, change the rules or the regulations in extraordinary circumstances and maybe take a breath and then reconvene the day after and make a decision on how to go forward.”

Kasper Schmeichel

UEFA’s reasoning was that players need 48 hours of rest in between matches during the tournament… and TV scheduling had to be considered too. But as part of their duty of care, maybe the mental wellbeing of players should have been just as important as the physical?  

At this point, it was UEFA’s responsibility to show leadership – to make a decision about continuing the game, not passing that burden onto the players.    

What’s clear is that Denmark chose to go on because they felt they didn’t really have much choice. The worry is that the long-term mental effects on all the players on the pitch could be severe.  

Today’s story was written and produced by Imy Harper.

Book, listen, read