When John Major launched the ill-fated “Back-to-Basics” campaign in 1993 he sought to recall an image of Britain: warm beer, old maids bicycling to church and long shadows on the cricket ground. With the greatest respect to Sir John I would suggest he missed various other specifically British images, one of which is the noble sport of welly wanging. I’m confident that the readers of this blog have a clear understanding of the sport, but for those who don’t I set out the rules of play from the World Welly Wanging Association:
- Welly wanging is a sport open to all people irrespective of age, sex, race, creed, religion, nationality and colour. And people from Lancashire.
- The sport shall be a civilised affair. Fair play, good humour and good manners shall be exhibited at all times.
- No umpire shall be needed. A player’s word and their honour shall be sufficient.
- Distances shall be measured in yards, feet and inches. None of this European nonsense that is mean for Europeans.
- The standard welly shall be the Dunlop green, size 9, non steel toe-cap. Competitors shall select whether they use a left or a right welly.
- No tampering with the welly shall be allowed. Factory finish only. No silicone polish is to be applied.
- A maximum run-up of 42 paces shall be allowed. This distance was chosen in memory of Douglas Adams, himself a proponent of the sport.
- The run-up shall end with a straight line of 10 feet in length, that being the width of a standard Yorkshire gate.
- The welly shall land within the area defined by the straight lines between the Upperthong Gala field and Holme Moss television mast on one side, and on the other by the line between the field and Longley Farm windmill. This playing area is known as the ‘Thong’.
- There shall be four categories: Men’s and Women’s, and Boys and Girls (u-14’s)
- The welly shall be projected using any action of the arm or foot for the respective categories.
- The use of wind assistance is allowed and, indeed, encouraged. Waiting for a suitable gust, however, is limited to one minute. No artificial or man-made wind is to be used.
- The winners of the two adult categories at the World Championships shall be proclaimed world champion for the forthcoming 12 months, and be awarded a prize as set by the organisers.
Unfortunately it seems that rule 11 may have not been properly appreciated in one event resulting in a case management decision in CRS Adventures Ltd v Blair Ford (2012). The Claimant suffered catastrophic spinal injury when wanging a welly at an event organised by CRS Adventures. The Claimant fell forwards when throwing a boot backwards between his legs. He applied to adduce expert evidence to demonstrate various “safe” methods of throwing a welly which he suggested CRS should have advised him to adopt (I pause to note that my limited researches into the question of technique suggests that the “between the legs” throw is one of the four common methods adopted by welly wangers).
The Claimant then applied to adduce the experts’ evidence only in so far as that it showed the court the different types of throw that they had researched, but not to adduce their opinions at to the safety of each technique. The master allowed this evidence, holding that in view of the overriding objective it would be wrong to deprive the Claimant of utilising this evidence when the Defendant would call evidence from a number of witnesses who had also utilised the same method of throw.
The Defendant appealed this decision arguing that the decision had gone back on the earlier decision and allowed the same evidence into proceedings by the back door. McCombe J held that the court would not interfere with a case management decision as long as the master had made it on correct principles. Any trial judge was more than capable of telling evidence of fact from evidence of opinion and as the Defendant had evidence from witness regarding the kind of throws used it was right that the Claimant was able to adduce evidence so as to create an equal footing.
What one takes from the case (other than one can find an expert to give evidence on the correct way to throw a welly) is the reaffirmation that judges have a wide discretion in making case management decisions. The court approved Walbrook Trustees (Jersey) Ltd v Fattal  EWCA Civ 427 where Collins LJ observed:
“I do not need to cite authority for the obvious proposition that an appellate court should not interfere with case management decisions by a judge who has applied the correct principles and who has taken into account matters which should be taken into account and left out of account matters which are irrelevant, unless the court is satisfied that the decision is so plainly wrong that it must be regarded as outside the generous ambit of the discretion entrusted to the judge. (my emphasis).