When the covers go on, the cover stumps up

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon fans bring their brollies to protect them from the rain. The All England Lawn Tennis Club buys insurance.

As the world's pre-eminent tennis tournament, Wimbledon is both costly and profitable and rain can do more than just ruin a day out. Delays and refunded tickets can hurt - just ask the England and Wales Cricket Board, which faces refunds of pounds 650,000 after the opening day of the second Ashes Test at Lord's was rained off last week. Fortunately, it's insured.

Insuring events against disruption or cancellation due to rain isn't limited to international events. Weather that keeps people at bay can ruin a village fete, a flower show or a country fair.

"We British are a little obsessed with the weather because it is so changeable," said John Lear, an underwriter at Eagle Star, which has been selling "Pluvius" rain insurance since 1920. "At the end of the day, that's why people insure."

The name Pluvius is Latin for rain, but Eagle Star also insures against events called off because of fog, low cloud, high winds and even lack of rain for fishing and other water sports. East coast folk, who see less bad weather on average than those in the west of the country, get cheaper insurance.

Other policies can be triggered by an agreed amount of rain falling over a specific period which could affect the attendance, profits or costs of an event. Rainfall can be measured at national weather centres, local water authorities or even by designated, independent people at the site - like the local police or vicar.

While recouping the costs - and even lost profits - won't make up for all the hours spent in preparation, it can soften the blow.

"In the last two or three years business has increased quite considerably," said Mr Lear. "Although annual weather has been improving, the unpredictability of the summer weather is still the same."

While Eagle Star requires a minimum of two weeks' notice during the summer months, some people arrange the insurance well in advance. "We are already receiving inquiries from organisers of outdoor Millennium celebrations," said Mr Lear.

While Wimbledon is insured against a washout, ticket-holders aren't so lucky. If there is no play on the day, many tickets get a full refund and if there is no play before 6pm they get half their money back. Under any other scenario, it's just tough luck.

Few refunds are paid in full - since 1920 only 10 days have been totally rained off.

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