A 33-year-old man scored a halfway line goal during a football match, despite claiming that he was unable to play after sustaining a foot injury in a road traffic accident four years ago

Former Horsham Football Club footballer Callum Saunders has admitted to making a dishonest insurance claim for £55,000, reported Brighton and Hove News.

At the time of the claim four years ago, the 33-year-old from Saltdean was a striker for Haywards Heath Football Club, where he played between 2015 and 2019.

After being involved in a road traffic accident in March 2017, Saunders claimed that he was unable to play football or work as a self-employed plasterer.

Despite his alleged foot injury, Saunders managed to score a goal from the halfway line in a match against Three Bridges FC during a match in the Southern Combination Football League championship, which was later featured on Sky television’s Soccer AM show on 7 February 2019.

Saunders’ appearance on the show was one of the pieces of evidence that law firm Clyde and Co presented to Brighton County Court to prove the footballer was exaggerating the extent of his injuries.

As a result, Saunders has now agreed a court order to withdraw his insurance claim and has been given a financial penalty – a bill for £5,000 legal costs.

A spokesperson for Clyde and Co said: “For a non-league footballer, having one of your goals shown on TV’s Soccer AM is a dream come true.

“But for Haywards Heath FC’s Callum Saunders, it was the start of a nightmare because it allowed insurance investigators to prove that his claims of a debilitating foot injury were a lie.

“In the video, he struck the ball with his right foot - the foot he claimed was injured.”

Evidence explained

In addition to featuring on the Soccer AM show, Saunders’ social media accounts also contained multiple posts about his appearance for Haywards Heath FC.

On several occasions in late 2017, following being involved in the road traffic accident, Hayward Heath FC also posted footage of Saunders playing football on the team’s YouTube channel.

The Clyde and Co spokesperson continued: “Shortly after the ‘wonder’ goal, Saunders signed a document claiming he was at a ‘permanent disadvantage on the open labour market’, claiming £17,300 for that alone.

“While Saunders was absent from work for some time, the investigators suspect that this was actually due to an injury he sustained while playing football.

“Confronted with the evidence, Saunders agreed his claim had been fundamentally dishonest under section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 and agreed a court order to withdraw his insurance claim and pay £5,000 costs.”

The investigation was conducted by the law firm, which was working on behalf of insurer Aviva.

‘Shocking example of opportunistic greed’

Damian Rourke, the partner at Clyde and Co who led the investigation, stressed that if a claimant exaggerates an injury for financial gain, then the court can lawfully dismiss the claim and press for punishment instead.

He said: “Callum Saunders may well have been feeling happy about his Soccer AM appearance but, in the end, it turned out to be a massive own goal.

“Having consistently lied to increase the amount of money he thought he could claim, our investigation showed that he behaved dishonestly.

“In hindsight, you have to ask how he thought he’d get away with it after constantly posting and tweeting about his football performances.

He was lucky not to receive a jail sentence.”

Rob Lee, head of casualty claims at Aviva, added that this case is a “shocking example of opportunistic greed”.

He continued: “Saunders clearly believed his minor injury claim was an open goal.

“What he didn’t count on is that Aviva is determined to tackle fraudulent claims and stop fraudsters in their tracks.

“We will pursue and prosecute those who commit fraud to ensure there are serious consequences, as Saunders can now attest.

“Cases such as this highlight the serious need for the whiplash reforms, which came into effect last month.

“The reforms remove the financial incentives for those who might otherwise seek to exploit the system for their own benefit.”

Saunders left Isthmian League Haywards Heath FC in 2019 and signed for Horsham FC in May 2020. However, he made no appearances for the club and his contract was terminated by mutual consent in September 2020.