A promising young footballer who was assaulted by a teammate after telling him not to be “racist” has launched civil action against the player, their former coach, the soccer club and Football NSW for alleged negligence.
In May 2018, Angus Chance, then 20, was assaulted by then teammate Nathan Bowden-Haase in a one-punch attack.
According to police facts of the case, Chance told Bowden-Haase to “stop being fucking racist” after the then 34-year-old yelled expletive-laden abuse at three Japanese players trialling with their Dulwich Hill Football Club in Sydney’s inner west.
Bowden-Haase responded with words to the effect of “racist? … I’ll come fix you up in a second” before Chance replied “grow up, stop being racist”, according to the police facts.
Bowden-Haase then “walked aggressively” towards Chance and pushed him, causing him to stumble backward. As Chance was regaining his balance, Bowden-Haase punched him in the jaw.
The assault caused Chance to suffer a seizure and left him with a broken jaw and dislodged teeth. He underwent facial reconstruction and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression since the attack.
Bowden-Haase was sentenced to 20 months’ home detention in 2018 but is now being pursued – along with their former coach, the club and Football NSW – as part of a civil suit.
In a statement of claim lodged in the New South Wales District Court, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald and seen by the Guardian, lawyers for Chance allege the club exacerbated his injuries by failing to call an ambulance after the assault.
Instead, court documents allege, a club representative arranged for a teammate to drive Chance home while he “was obliged to hold his bleeding and broken jaw and teeth in position as best he could” in the passenger’s seat.
The documents further allege that later that night Chance was called by a club representative who asked him to “not disclose the true circumstances” of the incident at hospital – a step which caused “great physical pain as well as shock, emotional pain and distress”.
Then, in an incident referred to as “the speaking ban”, the statement of claim alleges that in the months following the incident a representative from the club acting “at the request or direction” of Football NSW “sent a message to the members of the Dulwich Hill FC first grade team requiring those players not to have any contact” with Chance or his father.
The statement of claim alleges the ban left Chance “isolated” and “further distressed” and that Football NSW contributed to his post-traumatic stress by refusing to lift it for more than four weeks despite repeated requests.
Chance alleges that in the months leading up to the attack he had complained to his coach about threatening messages allegedly sent to him by Bowden-Haase in a team WhatsApp group.
Despite the coach allegedly admitting that he had been treated badly, and promising to speak to Bowden-Haase, he did not take “any necessary, appropriate and reasonable action” in the lead up to the assault.
Tim James, the executive general manager of the Menzies Research Centre and a former staffer to former prime minister John Howard, has been assisting the Chance family in a private capacity since the assault.
He accused Football NSW of offering “no support” and telling Chance’s teammates to cease contact with him.
“It’s all so avoidable if the sporting body had simply cared, shown empathy and fulfilled its duty of care,” he said.
“It’s an absolute disgrace and the young man and his family deserve apologies, support and their costs.”
Football NSW said in a statement on Monday: “This matter is subject to court proceedings and we cannot comment at this stage.”