Why the Rugby World Cup 2019 will be built on insurance

The Rugby World Cup in Japan is being billed as the world’s third biggest global sporting event. It isn’t only sporting excellence which will make it a success. The insurance industry will also play a huge part in making sure the tournament goes smoothly between the 20th September and 2nd November 2019.

All eyes will be on how Japan copes with hosting the tournament, not least because Asia has never staged a rugby union World Cup before. After all, it’s a huge opportunity to grow the sport at an event which is topped only by the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in terms of global reach.

For tournament owners, Rugby World Cup Ltd, it is vital that all potential risks are covered and mitigated – whether that’s injuries to players, freak weather conditions or even postponement, cancellation or abandonment of fixtures. In fact, insurance plays a huge part in allowing a tournament to even take place and enabling organisers, governing bodies, national unions, clubs, sponsors and fans to invest in its success.

As long ago as 2010, Lloyd’s of London estimated that the total insurance for FIFA’s World Cup in South Africa amounted to as much as £6.2 billion - £3.2 billion for stadia and training venues, and £3 billion for linked business opportunities (for instance, tourism, food and beverage, entertainment, and retail in general). Those figures did not include insurance policies applying to individual players in case of illness or injury, so the final bill may have been far higher. There’s little doubt that this tournament, like South Africa back in 2010, will receive extra attention because of its geography and the potential size of such a lucrative market for sponsors.

More than 400,000 fans are expected to visit Japan to watch the matches, with 2.5 million applications for tickets already received. A television audience well in excess of the 120 million who watched the last Rugby World Cup Final, in England in 2015, is predicted. In fact, the World Cup is expected to gain unparalleled television coverage in its host country with all 48 games reportedly shown on J Sports and 31 games shown live on free-to-air channels. In the UK, ITV have secured the broadcasting rights for the tournament after winning a battle against Sky Sports, meaning it will reach a large free-to-air audience.

There is big money at stake, too. Japan has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in infrastructure to make the tournament work for everybody – from stadia improvements to new roads. But economic experts believe the return could be much bigger.

In 2015, ticket sales alone topped £250 million, while online interest is expected to balloon this time, attracting a new list of high-level sponsorship. Profits from the tournament in the past have allowed World Rugby to invest £266 million between 2016 and 2019 on a programme to grow the sport, including a successful programme to increase participation in Asia. Tournament director Alan Gilpin said: “Japan 2019 will be transformational for the sport in Asia, and our Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programme, run in partnership with the Japan Rugby Football Union and Asia Rugby, is well on course to smash the target of attracting and retaining one million new players to the sport via the Asia 1 Million project.”

With so much at stake, insurance is an important ingredient for everyone involved. Here are some of the key considerations:

Cancellation and Non-Appearance. This is vital for organisers of any tournament or major event. Howden offers comprehensive cover for the cancellation, abandonment, postponement, interruption, curtailment or relocation of any insured event, due to a consequence beyond the control of the Insured.

Some of the risks covered could include:

  • Damage or destruction of the venue
  • Unavoidable travel delay
  • National mourning
  • Enforced reduced attendance
  • Terrorism
  • Communicable disease
  • Non-Appearance


Other insurance considerations, not just for organisers but for participating teams and sponsors, might include:

Contractual Bonus

It is important to think beyond just “what might go wrong?” For individual rugby unions and for sponsors, a player or team doing well in a tournament can also be expensive.

Most sponsorship and endorsement contracts will incorporate performance-related bonus incentives and most international teams, like club sides, would also offer their playing staff a performance-related bonus to maximise efforts.

Contractual Bonus Insurance can protect a sponsor, brand, club, union franchise or event organiser for their contractually-assumed liability to award bonuses to individuals or teams for attaining defined levels of success or achievement.

Loss of Attraction

This coverage is not typically covered by traditional terrorism coverage. Loss of Attraction is tailored to suit the needs of the client, protecting revenues in the event of terrorist activity within an agreed radius of the business or specific agreed locations.

The act or threat of an act of terrorism can not only impact the defined area of the terrorist act or threat, but can also have a knock on effect to the wider economy. For example, a terrorist act at an airport would have an impact to the resorts the airport serves which could be miles away from the actual attack.

Injury and Disability

Unlike in football, where FIFA covers a player’s wages if they are injured on international duty, no such scheme exists in rugby. Although clubs do not take part in the World Cup, the fact their players do is a significant risk. For instance, if England hero Owen Farrell is injured in Japan and misses nine months of the following season, his club side Saracens must continue to pay his wages and can be seriously out of pocket if not properly insured. Injury is also an issue for national unions - to ensure their players are fully covered against the impact of injury suffered on international duty.

Adverse Weather and natural disasters

The challenge of coping with natural disasters is a significant risk during this World Cup. Japan is used to dealing with extreme weather but last year the strongest typhoon in 25 years hit the western part of the country, killing 11 people. A few days later, 41 people died during a powerful earthquake on the northern island of Hokkaido.

“It’s a real hot topic for us right now,” said tournament director Alan Gilpin, who confirmed risk assessment has been vital.

“It’s a complex piece and something we would do for every tournament. But this one has a heightened sense of realism to it. We have to take it seriously.”

It’s worth remembering, too, that in 2011 an earthquake hit Christchurch in New Zealand, forcing eight games at that year’s Rugby World Cup to be moved to other cities. Many ticket holders had to be refunded – not to mention the money spent on switching venues and changing travel arrangements.

Insurance for clubs

Howden are the appointed broker for all RFU clubs at National League One and below, arranging their Public Liability insurance as well as Personal Accident cover for players. For clubs planning a trip or tour, either for the World Cup or for the future, we can provide specialist travel cover for professional and amateur teams, tailored for England Rugby affiliated clubs and designed with expert help from the RFU.

This insurance can cover:

  • Personal Accident
  • Medical and Emergency Travel Expenses and assistance
  • 24/7 Emergency & Security assistance
  • Cancellation, Curtailment or change of itinerary
  • Personal Baggage and Money
  • Passport Indemnity, loss of passport and travel documents
  • Playing and Training Equipment
  • Travel Delay
  • Personal Liability

Rugby World Cup Facts and Figures

The fixtures Group stages, 20 September-13 October. Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia, Samoa Pool B: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia, Samoa Pool C:England, France, Argentina, United States, Tonga Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay

Quarter-finals: Oita, Tokyo, 19 October-20 October Semi-finals: Yokohama, 26 October-27 October Bronze final: Tokyo, 1 November Final: Yokohama, 2 November

About the World Cup, Fact & Figures. Participating teams: 20 Matches: 48 Venues: 12 Governing body: World Rugby Tournament owner: Rugby World Cup Ltd Global sponsors: Emirates, Mastercard, Heineken, Land Rover, Société Générale and DHL

Looking back at Rugby World Cup 2015. Ticket sales: £250 million Total attendance 100,000,000 Global TV audience for the final: 120 million Highest UK TV audience: 11.6 million for England v Wales Highest Japan TV audience: 25 million for Japan v Samoa Global uses of #RWC2015 online in the tournament: 5 million Official app downloads: 2.8 million across 204 nations

Rob Barron

Robert Barron

Robert Barron brings over 20 years’ experience within the contingency insurance market. He’s helped a whole host of clients deliver successful promotions, events and sponsorship contracts, to name but a few. Tell him what's keeping you awake at night and he’ll find a way to insure it.

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