In the High Court before Mr Justice Cocklecarrot:
1. The Valley Express is a fleet of coaches hired by Charlton Athletic Football Club (hereafter 'the club') to convey supporters to and from home games at their stadium, The Valley, SE7.
2. The service is organised for the club by Mr Rick Everitt, the special projects manager. He reports to the chief executive of the club, Mr Peter Varney. Mr Everitt is assisted in his task by Ms Wendy Perfect and a team of elves.
3. Mr Everitt is a well known figure at the club. He was the club's communications manager. He also used to publish and edit a 'fanzine' known as The Voice of the Valley.
A 'fanzine' is a magazine whose content is designed to appeal to supporters of the club and was this in this case sold by hawkers around The Valley before matches and by postal subscription.
4. The magazine contained, inter alia
, articles on players and former players, club history, items of a jocular character and letters from readers, principally a Mr Jonathan Acworth who advocated the employment of players from the nearby Welling United club.
5. There was a history of rivalry between the club and two other professional association football clubs playing in South London, Crystal Palace (nickname 'The Glaziers') and Millwall (nickname 'The Spanners'). This rivalry was sometimes reflected in the pages of the magazine. The magazine has ceased publication and since then something more of a rivalry has developed with the West Ham United football club (the 'Irons'). This relates to matters currently before the European Court of Human Rights in Sheffield United versus the Premier League, Uefa, Fifa, the European Commission and the Lords of the Universe.
This case is not pertinent to the matter under consideration.
6. Mr Eric Larkin lives in a hamlet on Romney Marsh which has poor public transport services. He has a widowed elderly sister, Violet, who lives some five minutes' walk from The Valley.
7. In his evidence Mr Larkin said that he saw the provision of the Rickshaw [sic] as affording him the opportunity to make regular visits to his sister during the playing season.
8. The Rickshaw is a nickname for the Valley Express and is a play on Mr Everitt's name and a jocular reference to a means of transportation employed in Far Eastern Countries, although a version can now be observed on the streets of London. In evidence it was stated that the nickname was invented by an 'Inspector Sands', a sobriquet for a 'blogger'. A 'blogger' is a person who writes an electronic diary about their life and the events in it or on matters of public interest on which they comment.
9. 'Inspector Sands' was called to give evidence and seemed somewhat displeased at being so called, but in the event had nothing to contribute to the matter at hand.
10. In his evidence, Mr Everitt, who has a certain dry humour, said that whilst he appreciated the wish of Mr Larkin to see his sister, the Valley Express was not a form of welfare provision. Although it was cross subsidised by the club, its objective was to encourage existing season ticket holders to renew their tickets and to encourage other persons to become supporters of the club, to its general benefit.
11. Counsel for Mr Larkin said that use of the Valley Express required the purchase of a ticket for the relevant game. However, the implicit contract did not require the ticket holder to enter The Valley to observe the sporting contest. Purchase was sufficient.
12. On the day in question, Mr Larkin was 'caught short' (as he put it) whilst walking back to the Woolwich Road where the coaches are marshalled for departure. He therefore entered Floyds to avail himself of the facilities. Floyds is a bar and is an integral part of The Valley stadium. It is a play on the name of the adjacent road. On match days a person dressed in an animal costume representing 'Floyd' cavorts on the pitch before matches take place.
13. Having entered Floyds he encountered a Mr Cyril Portch, an old school friend. Mr Portch said, 'They were terrible today. I couldn't stand any more of it. They should have held on to Lisbie'. Mr Larkin, wrongly, inferred that Mr Portch had left before the end of the match and stayed in Floyds with him for several minutes during which time he consumed a pint of ale.
14. One returning to the Woolwich Road, no coaches were in evidence. One of the elves was about to board a 180 bus. Mr Larkin enquired of him as to the whereabouts of the coaches, whereupon the elf replied somewhat brusquely, 'They will be on the ****ing A2 by now mate'.
15. Mr Larkin had to return to his nearest station by train and then take a taxi to his home. His additional expenses amounted to £46.25 for travel and £10.17 for refreshments. In additional he claims £250 for stress and hurt feelings.
16. Counsel for Mr Everitt argued that Mr Larkin had been negligent in not returning to the coaches at the appointed time as passengers were clearly advised to, i.e., promptly after the end of the match. He could have calculated this by adding 90 minutes to the kick off time.
17. This was disputed by counsel by Mr Larkin who said that the match could have kicked off late or the referee could have added on five minutes or more to the duration of the game.
18. I heard evidence from one of the passengers who told the driver 'That old geezer from the Marsh is not on board', but the driver said that he could not wait any longer.
19. I find in favour of Mr Larkin, but also find that there was contributory negligence on his part. I propose to award a single figure percentage of the costs incurred by him, to be determined after due consideration, plus interest.