Brokers will be instrumental when Premier League restarts again, but they must keep up-to-date with protocol and push back with insurers where necessary 

With the Premier League resuming by mid-June behind closed doors, insurance brokers are set for a key role.

Clubs will need to enforce stringent measures to keep risks to a minimum and adhere to social distancing as Project Restart – the plan for the Premier League to safely complete the season is under way. 

This begs the question – will players have difficulty obtaining insurance or face premium hikes given that maintaining social distancing is near impossible in team sports? And if a player test positive, will they be able to get cover or face exclusions?

Some insurers are looking to exclude the virus from policies should players test positive. Medical cover has been an issue at top-flight clubs recently coming back to training as doctors cannot be on site under the government social distancing guidelines.

Club doctors have also raised concerns about their own liability and insurance, should players contract Covid-19 as Project Restart commits to rigorous testing methods, as well as limiting the extent to which doctors can assist players.

Duncan Fraser, head of sports at Howden, told Insurance Times: “There could be premium hikes on the sports insurance side, but we have seen very few claims from coronavirus.

“My advice to the clubs is that they seek best advice from the experts in this area with regards to what insurance they should be purchasing.”

Insurance Times explores how vital brokers will be once the Premier League starts up again, as well as the new risks emerging in the sport due to the pandemic. 

Broker opportunity

Brokers will be key in advising clubs about risk management policies and protocol updates as things are changing daily, Fraser said.

“It’s very important that clients are informed of what’s going on in the market. Brokers must also push back when insurers are imposing blanket exclusions,” Fraser added. For example, Covid-19 or contagious disease as a whole.

Gallagher’s Michael Owen, partner in the special risks team – UK speciality risk division, agreed that players could face premium hikes, but this would likely be when renewing policies, not a direct result of Covid-19 risks. 

This is due to markets paying large losses like business interruption. He agreed that players would be able to get the personal accident and illness insurance they need to be able to work.

Pre-existing condition

Owen warned that many insurers have now included a Covid-19 exclusion clause in their policies.

“If players cancelled an existing policy now, and then went on to contract Covid-19 and wanted to take out a new policy after, Covid-19 could then be seen as a pre-existing condition,” Owen said.

Gallagher has received various enquiries from clients asking whether they should cancel their cover completely, because their pay has been affected due to play being interrupted.

“We’ve advised strongly against that, and suggested cover should remain in force or that they could try reducing their limit instead, for the time being,” Owen said.

This is because most policies provide 24-hour cover for on and off the pitch events and therefore when play has been suspended, coverage is still important.

“We also cannot guarantee that rates won’t go up if players want to cancel and then take out cover in the future – particularly if they have a birthday in the meantime, which usually means they could face a higher premium,” Owen added.

Fraser said exclusions could also depend on the extent to which a player has been impacted by Covid-19.

Stringent measures

Meanwhile, Owen added: “There isn’t likely to be much of a difference where insurance is concerned – but Premier League clubs will be expected to enforce social distancing on the training pitch to mitigate the risk of players contracting Covid-19, and therefore reduce their liability.” 

The liability and insurance for club doctors has also raised questions, Owen said: “As a result, it is likely that only essential medical treatment will be permitted when play resumes, with all medical staff in full PPE (personal protective equipment).”

Players are likely to be tested twice per week and screened for symptoms daily at training grounds by health professionals. 

“Premier League clubs are really at the fore with risk management,” Fraser added. ”This ranges from slips and trips in the stadium, to the security of players – healthcare comes into this.”

Six Premier League players and staff at three clubs tested positive for coronavirus after the first wave of testing in Project Restart. Some players have spoken out against Project Restart, including Tottenham defender Danny Rose currently on loan at Newcastle who believes players are risking their health. 

And in France, Montpelier midfielder Junior Sambia was taken into intensive care back in April with Covid-19 symptoms, but has since recovered.

The risk of other players contracting Covid-19, Fraser said would not have a huge impact on insurance, and players getting ill is nothing new.

What is Project Restart?

Project Restart is an initiative put forward to ensure that Premier League resumes safely on 8 June. With its first fixture earmarked for 12 June, but this is likely to be pushed back. Discussions have also involved insurance for the club’s doctors as well as for players and staff.

Stringent measures have been proposed by clubs including players must arrive in full kit and wear a mask. Players will not be permitted to eat on premises, instead food will be delivered to players cars. 

Showering and changing will not be permitted on premises. Training and games will take place behind closed doors without fans present.

Surprise inspections, GPS tracking and video analysis could all be used to ensure clubs follow guidelines.

Some players have spoken out against it, such as Chelsea winger Willan Borges Da Silva. 

Premier League must produce its own risk assessment, contact will be limited and gradual according to the guidelines from the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 

Why is it important for brokers to stay up to date?

The situation is changing daily, therefore brokers need to stay on top of risk management protocol to advise clubs effectively. But this is an opportunity for brokers who have a key role to play.

Are there any other considerations?

Marsh has relayed several areas of consideration for sports when they restart, these include health and safety, event operations, venues, medical, financial, training/practice facilities, financial and management, catering, technology, supply chains and security.

For example, under the category health and safety: the availability of PPE for the workforce, volunteers and contractors as well as deep clean schedules for venues will need to be considered.

Contractual obligation

With no express ban on top-level professional football, players can legally go back to work, James Watkins, employment lawyer at law firm, Slater and Gordon said. 

“All players will still be under a contractual obligation to perform playing duties for their clubs but that will now be subject to the government’s advice regarding the observance of social distancing and the steps that everyone must follow to reduce the spread of the disease,” Watkins said.

“The Premier League is working with clubs to try to find a way to move forward safely, although some players may feel that protective measures do not go far enough.”

Watkins recommended keeping communication lines open to quickly return to business as usual but agrees it will prove difficult for players and clubs. 

”Ultimately every place of work within the UK must be safe for the employee to return, football included,” he said. 

Watkins added that the risk needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis, “if the first small steps towards Premier League football returning result in a spike in cases within that industry, then that will naturally mean everyone is far more cautious.

“Certainly, clubs will need to show they are doing everything they can possibly do to keep the risk to a minimum, like every other business across the country.

”This means making adjustments to keep people safe, which in this context could mean, changing the way training is conducted, PPE being worn, players not eating, changing or showering together and everyone being regularly tested,” he said. 

Premier League has been contacted for comment.


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