THE LANDMARK decision in favour of Michael Watson may bankrupt British boxing and it will almost certainly lead to a tightening of safety measures throughout the rest of sport.
It has in effect created a precedent by which sporting authorities can be held responsible for injuries suffered by participants under their jurisdiction. Five British riders have died in equestrian events this year, tragedies that must raise questions over where responsibility for safety lies in that sport too.
In boxing alone, others who were injured shortly before Watson - principally, Mark Goult, a Norfolk bantamweight, who remains disabled - may also have cases for compensation.
The ruling will lead to attempts to improve legal regulations governing all sports because authorities will fear being found liable in the event of an accident. The traditional view that sportsmen and women take part at their own risk has been overturned.
The perilous position of the British Boxing Board of Control was acknowledged in its statement, which concluded: "This is a very serious matter for the future of professional boxing in Britain and we must discuss the whole position not only with our legal advisers but with our members."
The board's lawyers have already made clear that an award of anything approaching the pounds 1m that Mr Watson wants would be far beyond its means. It had been thought that in the event of the board losing the case, time might be bought through the appeals procedure, enabling the current body, which has existed since 1929, to be disbanded and plans for a replacement be put into place.While the board was refused leave to appeal immediately after the judgment, it still remains hopeful of doing so.
About 620 professional boxers are working under British licences each year, and more than 200 promotions are regulated by the board - one-third of them televised. In the coming weeks, the sport's controllers face the task of working out a way in …