Incident Involving New Canaan Youth Football Game At Center of Fairfield County Football League Lawsuit


Saying a New Canaan youth football player roughed up one of his, and that the incident’s fallout led to his being unfairly ousted, a former assistant coach in Fairfield is suing the nonprofit organization that oversees a countywide league.

According to a lawsuit filed recently by a former assistant coach of the Fairfield Wildcats team of the Fairfield County Football League, a New Canaan sixth-grade player during a scrimmage last summer kicked a Wildcat “in the back of the head with great force while the Wildcats player was defenseless on the ground after completion of a play.”

In response, the plaintiff, Robert O’Connell, “reprimanded the offending player and directed him to return to his coaches,” according to the lawsuit, filed July 27 in state Superior Court and embedded below as a PDF.

“Subsequently, the plaintiff approached the offending player’s [New Canaan] coach and informed him of what had just happened, in reply to which the player’s coach directed foul language toward the plaintiff and aggressively approached him whereupon, rather than engage and escalate the situation, the plaintiff turned and walked away.”

The lawsuit does not name the players or New Canaan coach involved, yet it says that largely as a result of the incident and what Wildcats board members claim to have happened, O’Connell was suspended from coaching in the league and his son, by extension, was forced to undergo an awkward re-registration that effectively prevented him from playing in it, as well.

The lawsuit names the FCFL and the Fairfield Wildcats as defendants, as well as the Wildcats’ board president, Clarence Zachary, and vice president, Timothy Ihlefeld.

The Wildcats and its officers are represented by New Canaan’s Lambert Toohey & Rucci LLC, while O’Connell is represented by Green & Gross PC of Bridgeport and the FCFL of Wilton’s Bayer & Black PC.

An answer has not yet been filed, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch records. The attorneys involved in the case were not immediately available for comment.

Saying his reputation and standing in Fairfield has been damaged and that he’s been exposed “to hatred, contempt and ridicule” as a result of libelous and defamatory actions, O’Connell is seeking restoration in the league for himself and his son as well as compensatory and punitive damages and the costs of the suit.

According to the lawsuit, following O’Connell’s suspension, Wildcats officials on Sept. 9 held a meeting at the middle school attended by upward of 40 parents where Ihlefeld announced that he would show a film of the scrimmage (it was taped) demonstrating that the assistant coach acted improperly “including physically going after a New Canaan player.”

“At the meeting, in anticipation that a film of the scrimmage would be shown to attendees that had been alleged to show him engaged in improper conduct, the plaintiff, Robert O’Connell, without having had the opportunity to view said film, explained that during the scrimmage he had defended a Fairfield player after the Fairfield was kicked in the head by a New Canaan player, but that he had never threatened nor touched the New Canaan player, nor had he used foul language in responding to and reprimanding the New Canaan player for his offensive conduct,” the lawsuit said.

Yet Ihlefeld did not show the complete game footage, which had been “heavily edited,” and edited “allegedly by the New Canaan team, with plays shown out of order and incidents of misconduct by New Canaan players and coaches having been deleted, with the result that the edited film created a false and misleading impression of what actually occurred at the scrimmage and, specifically, a false and misleading impression of the conduct of the plaintiff.”

O’Connell’s son also is included as a plaintiff in the suit.

At first, the lawsuit said, O’Connell himself was assessed a single-game suspension without getting a chance to explain his side, and he faced a year-long suspension if he decided to defend himself. Then this spring, he asked that the Wildcats board include on its agenda matters related to safety concerns and to correct some other things such as notice of board meetings. He registered his son on June 14 and about three weeks later he received a notice saying he was not allowed to coach or attend Wildcats events, and that police would be called if he tried to, the lawsuit said.

Because he had been suspended, his role as registrant for his own son also was voided, and the registration itself revoked. The Wildcats required a different legal guardian to register the boy, the lawsuit said, and when his mother went to do so, the son was wait-listed and the family faced a fine for registering after the July 1 deadline, it said.




2 thoughts on “Incident Involving New Canaan Youth Football Game At Center of Fairfield County Football League Lawsuit

    • Rich it may well be that I’m not understanding this case correctly, but I am not seeing anything in the Judicial Branch records that says it has been dropped: … It’s true that, under a court order issued last week, the father here can take his son to football practice and attend games (though at a distance), and we note that in the “Did You Hear” feature that appeared in today’s newsletter — — but it looks to me that the lawsuit itself remains active, with a conference scheduled for Sept. 19. That doesn’t mean the CT Post article is wrong—it could be that the reporter attended a public appearance in court or contacted the lawyers or court officials directly and has special knowledge—but I am not seeing anything along those lines in the record. You can view the most recent order by going to the state link above and scrolling down through the various motions and documents.

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