Rugby player collapses and dies during York match

Heworth Rugby League ground
14 Jul 2018 @ 7.26 pm
| News

A player collapsed and died at a rugby league match in York on Saturday afternoon (July 14).

Max Blakeley, 32, played for the Birkenshaw Bluedogs. They were playing Heworth at their ground on Elmpark Way when the tragedy happened.

The game kicked off at 2.30pm. During the half time interval Mr Blakeley collapsed on on the side of the pitch behind the dugout and lost conciousness.

Heworth club officials administered immediate CPR and also deployed the defibrillator.

An ambulance arrived within minutes along with paramedic responders. They worked on the player for some time but were unable to revive him and he died at the scene.

A North Yorkshire Police spokewsoman said:

Just after 4pm on Saturday, July 14, North Yorkshire Police were called by the ambulance service after a man in his 30s collapsed and died on the pitch at Heworth Rugby Club.

Officers believe there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

So distressed

Max Blakeley. Photograph: Facebook
The game was abandoned at half time. The player’s teammates were in tears on the pitch.

A member of the crowd, who did not want to be named, told YorkMix: “The lads were distraught. It was horrible.

“One of the biggest Birkenshaw players, he was completely gone, so distressed. The referee had his head in his hands.”

Long-serving Heworth ARLFC club secretary Ken Sykes told us:

We played the first half of the game without any problems or incidents.

At half time one of their players, who had been on the field but had come off at some point, started to feel unwell and subsequently passed out.

We did what we could. We gave him some CPR. We also used the defibrillator. After six or seven minutes the ambulance was here, followed by paramedics.

They worked with him for about half an hour but they couldn’t get him going again.

It’s all very sad.

A Yorkshire Ambulance Service spokeswoman said they were called at 3.29pm and they sent two responders and an ambulance.

‘We are devastated’

The sign at the entrance to the ground
Mr Blakeley also played for rugby union club Cleckheaton RUFC.

They issued this statement:

It is with the deepest sadness that we have to report the passing today of Cleckheaton player Max Blakely.

Max was playing summer rugby league for local club Birkenshaw when he felt unwell. He collapsed moments later and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he was unable to be revived.

Max was a club stalwart and we are devastated. Sleep tight Max you will be sorely missed.

His friend Lee Petcher posted on Facebook: “I’m absolutely heartbroken!

“It is with greatest sadness that I have to report that one of my best friends and soul brothers Maxwell Clinton Blakeley sadly passed away doing what he loved most, playing rugby.”

Very rare

Mr Sykes said he had been involved in rugby league at Heworth and other clubs for 50 years, and it was the first time he had experienced something like this.

“It’s one of those very rare things. It’s not very nice when it happens.”

He said that the player’s collapse came completely out of the blue. “It’s very hot today of course, but there were 30 players running about.

“He hadn’t taken any knocks or bangs as far as we were aware.”

A report has been prepared for the coroner’s office.