A League of its own

Insurance and Reinsurance, Sports — By on October 26, 2013 at 4:07 PM

AmericanfootballFriday 25 Oct0ber* 2013 – The razzmatazz of American football is coming to London this Sunday, when the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the San Francisco 49ers. NFL regular season games have been played in London since 2007, but Lloyd’s underwriters have been insuring its top stars for much longer. (source: Lloyd’s of London)

Lloyd’s has a long history of underwriting American football, explains David Bruce of Pembroke Underwriting. “Unlike most US insurers, London underwriters are willing to insure the higher values and multi-year contracts required by professional American football players and teams.”

Lloyd’s is a go-to market for professional sports, including American football, agrees Duncan Fraser, who heads the sports practice at insurance broker JLT Specialty. Lloyd’s provides the specialist sports insurance and capacity required by risky high value sports like American football, he says.

According to Fraser, “cover is widely purchased in the NFL as players seek to protect their incomes and as clubs look to protect their interests. Teams and players buy personal accident insurance to cover costs associated with temporary and career-ending injury, ” he adds.

Injury prone

Professional American football is a physically demanding and tough sport where injuries are common.

“It’s a game in which the front row basically goes all out to get the quarterback, ” explains Bruce. “It’s a very brave game, and it’s no surprise that players often get injured.”

American football has a high injury rate compared with other sports, with the most common injuries affecting knees and hips due to the angles at which players are hit. “Sports like American football and ice hockey are in a league of their own when it comes to potential injuries, ” says Fraser.

Flexible cover

Personal accident insurance can be purchased by the team, the player or a body with an interest in the player, such as a manager or a sponsor. Policies are often for long periods or written on a rolling basis to match players contracts. For example, Bruce has underwritten a policy for as long as seven years in the past.

Underwriters rate players on a number of criteria, including the position they play. Quarterbacks and wide receivers are at high risk of injury and are often the most valuable. Key play-makers – like quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs – tend to be paid considerably more and are on long term contracts.

The rigours of the sport mean the average player has just five to six years to compete in the sport, although the best quarterbacks can have longer careers. Underwriters consider a player’s age when quoting – younger players are [statistically] more resilient and less likely to get injured.

Earning power

American football players can earn anything up to $100m over the course of a contract. And much like other sports, the values involved have rocketed over the years, as have the sums insured.

“Due to the potentially high earnings of some players, sums insured can run into the tens of millions of dollars. However, the Lloyd’s subscription market has the capacity to cover the large sums involved – a career ending injury could cost $25 to $100m, ” says Bruce.

Cancellation

“American football games are also buyers of event cancellation insurance. There are a number of cancellation policies in the Lloyd’s and US insurance markets for NFL games, including the Super Bowl, ” says Fraser.

The Super Bowl is America’s most watched televised sporting event. A record 111 million US viewers tuned in to watch the NY Giants against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, making it the most watched US programme of all time.

However, the US is exposed to major natural catastrophe exposures, including earthquakes, windstorms, floods and snow storms, any one of which could lead to postponement or cancelation of a big game.

Similarly, terrorism, pandemics and power failures can also present a cancellation risk for American football. Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013 was temporarily stopped by a power failure.

* received overnight 25 to 26th October 2013

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