Is Marcus Hallows the new Jean-Marc Bosman?

First, a warning. This post is mildly serious, and many readers may find it lacking in the joviality and incisive wit* that Beat The First Man has become famed for. So that's that sorted.

How many of you could pick Jean-Marc Bosman out of a line up of one? Without the thoughtfully provided pictorial aide below, I'm guessing not many. Yet his name is now as synonymous with the game as Pele, Maradona and Kenny Irons.

pic of Jean-Marc Bosman
Guess who?
And now you can add the name of Marcus Hallows to that list. Like Bosman, a player no-one outside of his immediate family had ever heard of. Like Bosman, a player whose legacy promises to be far greater than anything he could have achieved with a ball. And like Bosman, a player whose actions will benefit others far more than they ever benefit him.

In amongst the gnashing of teeth and collective hand-ringing that is currently accompanying the inevitable, yet prolonged, deaths of Portsmouth, Chester and the like, a court ruling came into being that has potentially huge implications for the future of football.

marcus hallows and dan white
Marcus Hallows (red) and Dany White
Hallows was playing for Altrincham against Ashton United in March 2005, when he was involved in a challenge with Ashton's Dan White. The referee, no more than 10 yards away, saw nothing wrong in the challenge, and no free kick, let alone any caution for White, was given. Yet Hallows was injured. Badly. His leg was broken, and an ambulance was called. In the time it took for the ambulance to arrive, Hallows' heart stopped beating.

There was no footage of the incident, other than photos taken before and afterwards. Eye witness testimony was divided. "Experts" in the guise of Gary Mabbutt argued that the tackle they hadn't seen was "reckless", whilst the likes of ex-ref Jeff Winter claimed the tackle they hadn't seen "was commonplace at all levels of football".

Thankfully, due in no small part to the actions of the first aid staff at the ground, Mr Hallows survived, and made a full recovery. However, he has never kicked a ball in anger since. He holds both Ashton United, and Dan White, responsible for this. Follow this link for a local news report, in stunning technicolour.

Marcus Hallows in his hospital bed
Last week Ashton United were ordered to pay Mr Hallows £32000 in compensation for loss of earnings. A crippling amount of money for a club of Ashton's standing. And if they are unable to, the responsibility falls on Mr White. Compensation for an injury that occured during the course of a normal game of football, that all parties were partaking in voluntarilty, fully aware of the potential for injury.

There is much that sticks in the claw about this ruling. Gary Mabbut's
testimony for the prosecution. That it seems likely to spell the end
for one of Manchester's oldest football clubs. The ramifications for the game I love. But over and above all this is something that it would be easy to lose sight. By taking a fellow player to court, Hallows has breached an unwritten code.

You may not always like the people you share a pitch with, even those you share a dressing room with. But, to coin a cliche, when you cross that white line, you are all in it together. Yes, those given to hyperbole like to describe a game of football as "more important than life and death", but we all know such people are an leave from the asylum. Football is, at it's heart, a game, a pasttime. One which many of us put too much store in, and one which raises passions like no other. But one which we love because it is imperfect.

The implications for the game are widespread.  A legal precedent has been set whereby any injury can result in players or clubs being taken to court, and the financial implications could bankrupt both club and player. In addition, officials decisions are now subject to over-rule "after the fact" Above and beyond instances such as this, it now means that any ruling from a match official is open to reinterpretation. Don't like the last minute  penalty? Take it court.Think your man was wrongly sent off? Get your lawyers on the line.

There is a petiton which, if you have read this far, I would urge you to sign, which calls for the review, and  over-turning, of this ruling. Not just for the future of Ashton United and Dan White. But for the future of the game, for all of us. Even Marcus Hallows.

I have been able to watch Dan White play football fairly regularly since that challenge. He has rightly earned the nickname of "Gentleman Dan" wherever he has played. He was voted RUFC Supporters Player of the Season last season. I have never met Marcus Hallows.

*anyone claiming that all BTFM posts could be filed under this category will be forced to watch this video on repeat for 24 hours.
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