Before resuming training, professional rugby players could have to sign disclaimers to waylay worries about coronavirus claims

Premiership rugby players may be required to sign disclaimers before resuming training sessions because clubs and their doctors fear they will not have the necessary insurance policies to cover against potential coronavirus claims, reported The Guardian.

Richard Cramer, managing director at Front Row Legal, believes that club doctors, in particular, will want full insurance coverage before players return to the pitch, which the Premiership hopes will be 1 June 2020.

Cramer told The Observer: “Clubs need to be very wary of exposing themselves to claims. Where I would be nervous if I was a club is just seeing what the insurance market is doing.

“As a club, I don’t think you can have any high degree of confidence that the existing insurance policies would indemnify the club. So, potentially, the clubs are taking a risk getting back on the playing field and exposing players.

“If I was in that situation, I would certainly be wanting to make sure that full insurance is in place, but they might not get a decision from insurers for some time. In which case, doctors and medical teams will have to cover their own backs and there may have to be new types of disclaimers signed by the clubs and the players, because certainly a doctor would not want that level of responsibility.

“I’m not saying that a disclaimer would get a club out of trouble, but it does make it more difficult to bring a claim. But it may be regarded as an unfair variation of a contract to sign a disclaimer to waive any claims arising from Covid-19.”

However, the World Players’ Association, which represents around 85,000 sportsmen and women including rugby players, feels that signing disclaimer forms could raise legal concerns, as research suggests that athletes may be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19’s symptoms.

The union’s executive director Brendan Schwab told The Guardian: “We have seen some research that athletes may be particularly vulnerable to serious symptoms.

“We are concerned that some sports bodies are trying to place the economic and legal risk of contracting the disease on to players and that is something which we think should not be tolerated.”

Cramer added that the coronavirus risk is more complex in rugby, compared to football for example, because there is more physical contact.

He continued: “It’s very different in rugby and that’s why there has been talk of disbanding scrummaging. The biggest danger is that with players who are training at their maximum peak, often their immune systems are lower because of the physical exertions they put on their body.

“Personally, I think players might quite like the idea of getting back to work and training, but when it comes to that key moment of no turning back, they’ll want that high degree of comfort that they’re medically safe.

“If I was advising a player, I would want to know exactly what level of insurance is in place and what the player is covered for.”

Official guidelines

Rugby union governing body World Rugby has published guidelines urging clubs and unions to ensure they are “adequately insured”, however clubs are unsure as to whether insurers would offer the necessary level of indemnity before players return to clubs.

World Rugby has further advised players to complete a daily questionnaire as part of a screening process on returning to training.

It stated that “all unions should ensure that their policies require written confirmation from players and staff that they understand the risks involved in returning to training and playing”.