Wow this will have a huge impact on the game very soon!
September 28, 2006
Insurance crisis for rugby in Canada
Rugby insurance in Canada could be cancelled by next week.
By Doug Crosse
The subject of insurance has been a hot topic in rugby administration circles and the nation's rugby change rooms as it appears a crisis of coverage is on the horizon in Canada.
In the first week of September Rugby Canada advised all its constituent unions across the country that Lloyd's insurance was discontinuing the 'Catastrophic Insurance' coverage, which is part and parcel of the current insurance policy provided to all registered rugby players and unions in the country. This provision allows for automatic payout (through No Fault Insurance) of up to $500,000 CDN for injuries resulting in long term disability.
While the 'Catastrophic Insurance' was removed as of September 8th, current regular coverage will continue until October 8th, at which time Rugby Canada and its unions must purchase a new insurance plan to enable coverage to continue.
Tragically a Hamilton rugby player, Sean Corner, suffered what can most certainly be considered a catastrophic injury, just two days after that particular rider had expired, leaving him no financial benefit that would assist he and his family as they deal with the challenges of paralysis, home and vehicle conversion and therapy.
There is still an avenue for Corner, or any other injured players wishing to seek resolution in such cases, but it involves assessing and laying blame on everyone involved with the game from coaches, to managers to referees and facility management groups, in what is often termed a 'shotgun' lawsuit. The aim is to get enough parties named in various suits trying to prove negligence, that some money will trickle out through everyone's desire to limit liability.
The Ontario Rugby Union revealed in an open letter on its website that Rugby Canada had provided one possible alternative insurance program, but it would have seen annual premiums for the ORU rise from $15,000 to $455,000, and would have required immediate payment, an unfeasible expense for such a small sports administration.
BC Rugby CEO Jeff Sauve has confirmed no alternatives have been reached for his union's requirements either, which could be a huge problem as the domestic season only began in September. Ontario is in the midst of the play-offs, with the third round of the McCormick Cup in possible peril as coverage expires on Sunday October 8th ( a day after Round Two).
According to a report presented by Insurance Committee chair for Rugby Canada Hans De Goede, a spate of claims has hurt the sport's relationship with major insurers over the past couple of years, including three spinal injuries that resulted "in one complete recovery, one death and one (sic) para." These claims, coupled with a lawsuit stemming from an assault at a rugby game and another rash of spinal injuries proved too much for the company BrokerLink - who was advised from its reinsurer Lloyd of London, that rugby's catastrophic coverage would no longer continue.
As the injury to Corner reveals, the risks are real, and players, coaches, referees and anyone else directly associated with the game need to take an in depth look at the exposure that is being created by the current insurance environment.
As ORU President Mike Williams reveals in his open letter to constituents: "Rugby Canada and we in Ontario are actively seeking out all options and possibilities for replacing the catastrophe portion without jeopardizing our liability coverage. Rugby Canada has engaged Insurance Brokers, Jones, Brown to seek options for replacement and we expect a status early in next week."
Meanwhile it appears the Hamilton Hornets, the team Corner played for when his injury occurred, are trying to deflect some of the blame for the lack of coverage in Corner's case by insisting the Hornets and other clubs were not notified properly of the insurance change, citing an email 'spam filter' as the reason why club officers were not aware of the situation.
"The union sent it out in a block to all the clubs," Gilks said in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator earlier this week.
"We did not see it," said Gilks. He went on to say that had they known about the lack of catastrophic insurance, the decision might have been made to scrub the games that day, or at the very least, advise players and let them draw their own risk conclusions.
The one thing that is almost a certainty is that premiums will go up and it will be players at all levels being asked to pay the increase, which cost $22 per senior player or coach for 2006. The potential to price the sport right out of contention as a leisure option is a very real possibility should a low cost insurance resolution not be found. Players could look at five to ten times increase in premiums, which would see most clubs in the country lose players through an inability to afford such expensive rates.[/b]