In recent years the sporting environment, like many other industries, has seen a rise in the number of compensation claims. A picture is emerging; not so long ago an injury in sport was looked upon as part and parcel of playing the game; nowadays the mentality appears to be, I have been hurt, who can I blame?
What adds to the frustration is the cost of litigation; very often minor accidents create huge financial burdens, only benefiting lawyers and referral agencies.
One of the biggest concerns, however, is the extent to which allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards children are now being made. There is no doubt sport is used by people as a means of gaining access to children and a number of coaches have served or are serving custodial sentences. In 1995 an Olympic Swimming Coach was jailed for 17 years for sex attacks, committed over a 15 year period, on members of his elite squads. Other allegations may manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
Sport is working hard to ensure children are safe in whatever activity they choose to participate. The champion for this is the Child Protection in Sport Unit. It provides advice specifically designed to minimise the risk of child abuse during sporting activities, but also for those who work with them, so as to not put themselves in a vulnerable position. That mantra should also extend to anyone working with children, regardless of the sport; all members must consider their behaviour and not allow themselves to be put in a position where malicious allegations can be made.
How can you protect yourself?
Sport and recreation organisations face a minefield of risk. The potentially hazardous nature of some activities, combined with the impact of changing legislation and a deeply entrenched compensation culture, has made it increasingly important to ensure your association or organisation has comprehensive protection.
Perkins Slade provides insurance and risk management services to 60,000 voluntary sports clubs, more than 100,000 coaches and instructors and over 3 million individual participants in the UK.
We work with leading sports insurers to provide a range of covers including market-leading civil liability protection, which includes coaching advice (Professional Indemnity) and committee decisions (Directors' and Officers' Liability). Critically, for sport, our policy can include 'abuse' cover for clubs. The policy also includes any legal costs incurred as a consequence of court action. If negligence is proved, the policy will pay damages to the party that has suffered a loss.
In October 2010 Lord Young produced a report calling for “‘common sense: an end to the compensation culture”. The focus, in particular, was to reduce the claims culture, especially in relation to minor incidents and to encourage people to take greater responsibility for their actions. That may be a long time coming. In the meantime all sports club members are encouraged to continue to apply the very high standards that exemplify their sport, particularly in relation to their coaching responsibilities and the protection of children.
For more information on the issues raised in this article please speak to your usual Perkins Slade contact. Alternatively call 0121 698 8000 to speak to a member of our Sports team or email email@example.com