2018 has been an exceptionally good and memorable year for sports.  The most memorable was a World Cup that lived far beyond its usual promise, certainly for England fans.

There’ve been more sports championships on offer and, more sports to watch.  Witness cycling’s ‘halo’ effect in the UK. As well as, higher profile coverage of women’s team sports, like football and rugby.  It’s no wonder that the market for insurance for sports professionals, is increasing.

The risks faced

Sports injuries are more common than we like to acknowledge.  Sometimes, even in training they happen, or during everyday matches, not just at championships.

From a simple sprained ankle, to a tackle requiring time off.   Even tragically, to a heart attack on the pitch.

According to The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) on average 30 players a year across the UK’s football leagues have shortened careers due to injury. With such high odds, it’s baffling why any individual athlete or club would not have this type of insurance cover.

Sports with high injury rates

As you’d expect, contact sports tend to see more injuries.  Research by the University of Calgary revealed that concussion rates amongst youth athletes was about 18 times higher than average for rugby, five times greater for hockey, and roughly double for American football.

Basketball is classed differently but injury rates are still notoriously high.  The speed of action and nearly-all players being around 7 feet tall, play their part.  Knee and Achilles injuries are particularly prevalent.  According to ManGamesLost.com until February 2018, 3,798 games were missed due to injury, up 42 percent from the same portion of games last season.

The injury tallies

According to research by broker JLT Specialty, England’s premier League clubs paid out £217m in wages to injured players in the 2017-18 season.  The cost of insurance increased 21 percent from £176.6m in 2016-17 even ‘though injuries actually fell from 735 to 663.

The most injuries suffered in the premier league was to the Arsenal team, which recorded 54 separate injuries.  The most common type of injury was hamstring, with knee injuries having the highest average cost of £613,402 per injury.

League champions Manchester City suffered the second fewest number of injuries in the season – 24 along with Newcastle. Brighton had the fewest injuries (15) of any top-flight club but also paid out the least in wages (£3.01m) to injured players.

Of course, as you’d expect, insurance costs rise in relation to the number of injury pay outs.  According to JLT one injury will cost a club an average £323,000 in wages.

What does insurance cover

Coming within the specialty class accident and health, our underwriting provides cover for individual or group personal accident. It includes permanent or temporary disability through accident or sickness, as well as dismemberment or accidental death.

High profile matches or tournaments require specialist contingency cover, another area that Pardus specialises in.  If an event is cancelled, relocated, or postponed, monies can be recouped against tickets sales and other losses.

The increased cost of insurance

Club tournaments are increasingly complex affairs, with more partners and third-party organisations getting in on the act.  High revenues can be lost, potentially, by any party.

Eye-watering transfer fees and clubs’ keenness to retain and protect against career-ending injuries, are definite drivers in escalating insurance costs.

National newspapers claimed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s insurance was over £150 million each during this year’s World Cup.  Beyond this, clubs would have paid fees to guard against extortion and kidnap and cyber-terrorism during the event. Cover against tournament cancellation, including the subsequent loss of TV rights and sponsorship opportunities, were reported to be in the region of £1 billion.

Waking up to the reality of today’s world

Sports clubs the world over are waking up to the new realities of protecting their main assets, their star players.

In May of this year the England and Wales Cricket Board announced it was in talks with the players union to tighten its outdated insurance policies after the heart failure that almost killed batsman James Taylor, nearly terminating his career.

It was hastened by Taylor’s failure to qualify for critical illness care, forced to retire in 2016, aged 26.  Receiving a pay out of £300,000 was nowhere near the millions he might have earned during his career. His trajectory certainly boasted ten more years, including international test series.

The bottom line

Whether it’s high profile international tennis players, like Monica Seles or Ralph Sampson, US basketball player of the 80s who finally retired due to knee and back problems, every sports person is vulnerable to injury.

No one likes to imagine the worst will happen. But, if it does, at least insurance can provide a safety net.

If you would like to find out more about sports insurance call our accident and health team today.