Combined with the unusually cold winter in the US, storms and floods in the UK have led to a higher than normal number of insurance claims for the time of year, explains Michael Price, an event cancellation and contingency underwriter at Beazley. Transport disruptions and travel restrictions have reduced attendance at many events on both sides of the Atlantic, while flooded venues have led to cancellation or postponement, he adds.
The UK and US were not alone in experiencing extreme weather in recent months– a heat wave in Australia threatened a number of events, including the Australian Tennis Open. “While there weren’t any high profile cancellations in Australia, insurers were called upon to help ensure events went ahead by sourcing shade as well as additional drinks and ice creams to keep people cool,” says Price.
Falling on already saturated ground, any periods of sustained rain in the coming weeks and months could jeopardise sporting events in the spring and early summer, according to Paul Thomas, Business Development Manager at Sportscover, which, like other Lloyd’s syndicates, insures sports and other events. Many pitches, cricket grounds and horse racing courses have been waterlogged and will be susceptible to further rain or a late cold snap, he explains.
If the rain had continued during the past few days it is not inconceivable to think that large events, like today’s Cheltenham Festival, could have been threatened, says Thomas. This in spite of the fact that horseracing has traditionally been resilient when it comes to the weather and well-practised in the art of keeping the show on the road, he adds.
Thousands of amateur sports teams and smaller professional clubs have been badly affected so far this year with many not being able to play for a number of weeks. For example, a number of clubs have had to postpone valuable home games due to waterlogged pitches, meaning diminished gate revenue and loss of revenue from facility hire at a time when every penny helps, says Thomas.
Outright cancellations are rare, but adverse weather can easily create additional cost or the loss of revenues for event organisers. “A drop in attendance is a common cause of financial loss, and there have been many cases in these past few months where organisations have been able to claim for reduced attendance from their insurance,” explains Price.
While outdoor events are obviously at the mercy of the weather, conferences, music events and exhibitions held in the winter are still exposed, according to Price. Storms, floods, cold snaps and snow can all disrupt transport, close venues or reduce attendance, he says.
Event cancellation insurance is a growing line of business, especially since unpredictable weather in recent years has disrupted events across the UK, according to Mike Hallam of the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA). The summer of 2012 - the wettest in the UK since Met Office records began in 1912 – has now been followed by the wettest winter on record, he notes.
“The washout summer of 2012 brought cancellation insurance to the fore, making organisations much more aware of the need to protect their financial obligations and revenues. And with yet more extreme weather this winter, we expect this to be a growing area of insurance for years to come,” he says.
BIBA recently agreed an exclusive scheme that will provide an opportunity for its 2,000 member brokers to offer Beazley’s event liability and cancellation insurance to their clients. The scheme could help raise awareness of the cover and increase up-take, especially for smaller events, according to both Price and Hallam.
An average UK town will host over 5,000 events each year, according to market research carried out for Beazley. Around 80% of these events are likely to be uninsured, so there is a big opportunity to grow the event insurance market in the UK, says Price.
“Organisers are either not aware of event insurance or think it is too expensive, but they will be surprised to hear that cover can cost as little as a few hundred pounds,” he adds.