Be prepared for injury time

Insurance should be as vital for amateur footballers as shin pads, but too often it is overlooked, says Tim Collison

PREMIER LEAGUE teams played their first matches of the season yesterday, and would-be Michael Owens nationwide will be running on to local pitches soon when five-a-side and Sunday leagues get under way.

Unfortunately, a worryingly large number of them will be carried off before the end of the match.

Around 250,000 amateur football players are rushed to casualty departments each year. Over a third have leg or knee injuries; many need emergency dental work.

If the injury is serious, then the player will need time off work - the Association of British Insurers estimates that 11 million working days are lost each year through sporting injuries. These facts are alarming, but the problem is worse if the player is not insured. Statutory sick pay is pounds 57.70 a week, and some football-related injuries can keep you off work for months.

Last November a 22-year-old manual worker in Hartlepool was seriously injured while playing in a Sunday league. He broke his leg and spent a week in hospital. He is still off work and his insurer, GAN, has had to pay out a total of pounds 1,875 in benefits so far.

The Football Association is investigating whether clubs and players are adequately insured. The early indications are that many of the 43 county FAs would back compulsory personal accident insurance for all club players. Middlesex, Kent and Shropshire demand that players be insured.

Personal accident insurance pays out a lump sum for accidental death and loss of eyes or limbs, although neither is very common in football. There is also a one-off payment for permanent total disablement and a weekly benefit for temporary total disablement. The latter usually lasts for up to 104 weeks although some insurers, such as GAN, have cut this to 58 weeks.

Most policies are taken out on a group basis by football clubs through specialist brokers. For an annual premium of pounds 32.50, Worcester-based brokers Mann Broadbent will cover a team for capital benefits (including death and loss of limbs) of pounds 10,000 and weekly benefits of pounds 5 per player. Teams willing to spend more pay pounds 975 a year and get pounds 75,000 capital benefits and weekly benefits of pounds 150 per player.

Forking out nearly a grand for insurance is way beyond the means of many amateur clubs. "Most clubs are on a very tight budget," says Mervyn Leggett, general manager of Mann Broadbent. "Quite a few opt for pounds 5 a week, but, to be honest, this will pay for little more than the cab fare to the hospital."

Broadstone Insurance Services' weekly benefits start at pounds 10 per week at an annual premium of pounds 65. This will also pay out pounds 10 a night towards hospital cover, but only offers capital benefits of pounds 2,000. Broadstone's maximum cover is pounds 20,000 capital benefits and pounds 100 weekly benefits, for a premium of pounds 650. All levels of cover include emergency dental fees of pounds 250.

Brian Darlington, of specialist sport insurance broker J&W Webster & Co, says dental treatment is an essential element: "We offer pounds 200 per incident with no excess. Some policies only have dental cover as an optional extra and with a pounds 25 excess."

Few amateur players take out individual cover because the club schemes work out much cheaper. However, if personal accident insurance does become compulsory at amateur level, we will be bombarded with new individual policies.

Premier Sports Club has beaten the rest of the market and launched a policy for individual players. The cover, endorsed by Sir Geoff Hurst, the former England player, costs pounds 30 a year and offers weekly benefits of pounds 150 a week, hospital benefits of pounds 25 per day and capital benefits of pounds 2,500.

Axa Insurance, sponsor of the FA Cup for the next four years, is also working on an individual policy to top up the benefits paid by a player's employer.

If you are self-employed you will need much more cover than just a personal accident policy. A self-employed footballer needs income protection to cover three-quarters of each month's earnings. An independent financial adviser will sort this out.

All amateur footballers also need adequate public liability insurance to cover them against injuring one another. Household insurance will cover many, although policies do vary.

Many clubs will be covered for public liability as part of their membership of an association or league, but the advice here is to make sure cover is in place for a wide range of liabilities, and that the exclusions are not too restrictive. Galaxy 7, for example, has 13 exclusions.

Contacts: Broadstone Insurance Services, 01202 696166; Mann Broadbent, 01905 612336; J&W Webster & Co, 01254 661511; Premier Sports Club, 0800 7313376; Administration Bureau, 01604 234480; Galaxy 7, 01203 386022.

Tim Collison is editor of 'Professional Broking' magazine.

Sport and insurance

Even if you take out insurance to cover you on the football pitch, you may have a whole range of other insurance policies that won't pay out for sports injuries.

The best-known "exclusion" is skiing, closely followed by windsurfing and diving. Travel insurance policies rarely cover this as standard - you have to pay a higher premium.

An accident on the football pitch may cause problems with existing accident and illness cover, income protection plans and payment protection policies for loans and mortgages.

Sports injuries can be a grey area if you have private medical insurance, especially if a similar injury happened before the policy was taken out.

Insurers have different definitions of the "hazardous sports" they will not cover. Some companies also exclude "wilful exposure to risk". This means they take a dim view on unofficial activities, such as off-piste skiing. Even policies targeted directly at sports enthusiasts have surprising restrictions. American Express's Accident and Injury Plan, which pays out lump-sum benefits, states that policy-holders are "covered for most popular sports as an amateur player". Squash, skiing and cycling are covered, but excluded are football and rugby, two of the most popular participation sports.

Anyone who plays sport, or is into outdoor pursuits, must check the details of their insurance contracts. It may also be worth checking the terms of any insurance provided by employers and the company's attitude to sporting injuries.

STEPHEN PRITCHARD

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