How pandemic insurance is helping Wimbledon stave off the brunt of the financial impact caused by COVID-19


Wimbledon had a plan for coronavirus. Or rather, they had a plan for some kind of catastrophic emergency that would force the world’s most famous tennis tournament to have to cancel.

More specifically, the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, the private club that provides the venue for the Wimbledon Championships, was pretty incentivized to cancel the competition entirely given that the organization would be eligible for a massive payout to recoup losses for doing so. This is a result of pandemic insurance that they took out prior to the event, and is something the All England Club’s Risk and Finance Sub-Committee have insisted they include in contracts for quite some time.

It’s a long-standing decision that has finally paid off for Wimbledon, as refunds for ticket holders and those with television rights will be covered. This also seems to be the case for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club with regards to the Open Championship, as they too have a pandemic clause for that contract. These clauses can include coverage if the Queen dies, if a terrorist act happens or, as is currently the case, a global health crisis forces all of sports to shut down. 

But while these two leading British sports organizations are covered, not every sports business is in the same boat, as Darren Rovell of the Action Network points out. Others are relying on what’s known as a “force majeure,” which is French for “superior force.” Such a clause covers businesses and organizations in the event of unexpected acts of god or nature. Either the company involved gets out of the contract, or they get an insurance payment as a result.

In a conversation Rovell had with lawyer Jonathan Pray, it seemed that not everyone who has such a clause will benefit from it. According to Pray, those clauses are heavily negotiated because of how big of a risk they entail, and often times pandemics aren’t included since they don’t happen as much as “fire, floods, hurricanes and snowstorms.” Not even business interruption insurance could provide a silver lining for these organizations as that only applies when property damage is done — which a respiratory infection will have no affect on.

Worst of all for companies that missed out on pandemic clauses this time around, it’s very likely that getting one in the future will be considerably more difficult. Presumably, now that the actual financial consequences of such an event are clear, the risk would just be too great for insurers to choose bear. 





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