Archive for the ‘Risk Management’ Category

NMAA New Bylaws Levy Sanctions For Bad Fan Behavior In High School Sports

High schools under the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) recently took a significant step towards curbing unsportsmanlike conduct in sports. Nearly 80% of the membership approved an update to Bylaw 7.7.4 that governs Crowd Control & Unsportsmanlike Conduct. But what exactly does this mean, and will the new regulations make a difference? Let’s break it down.

The Revamped Rules: A Snapshot

Starting from the 2023-2024 school year, the modified bylaw now presents the following changes:

For Team Members: Should any team participant (including coaches) engage in an “egregious act of unsportsmanlike conduct” twice or more in the same season, at the same school, and in the same activity, the team will be suspended from that activity for the rest of the season.

For Spectators: A non-team participant who exhibits unsportsmanlike behavior twice or more in the same conditions as above will result in the suspension of all spectators for that activity for the remainder of the season.

Defining Unsportsmanlike Conduct: The NMAA Handbook now defines unsportsmanlike behavior as not just a violation of specific sport rules but also as actions that don’t align with the “Compete with Class” initiative and broader educational objectives.

Consequences Extend to the Next Season: If the second violation occurs at the end of the season, penalties could spill over into the next season for that same activity.

The bylaw also lists examples of what constitutes egregious unsportsmanlike conduct. This includes fans engaging in violent acts, verbal abuse against officials, and more. For those interested in further details, here’s a link to the NMAA Handbook.

The Real Problem: Is Legislation the Answer?

While the efforts of NMAA are praiseworthy, one cannot help but wonder if merely changing bylaws will change people’s behavior. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has already tried to discourage unruly fan behavior by imposing fines. But has it worked? Data suggests that it has not significantly reduced incidents and as a result the SEC is upping the penalties.

Digging Deeper: The Root Causes

It’s essential to examine the underlying reasons for such conduct. Is it the hyper-competitive nature of sports? Is it parents pushing their children to win at all costs? Could it be symptomatic of a more violent society at large? The reality is, many stadiums and arenas already have fan codes of conduct prominently displayed. Despite this, disruptive behavior persists. To truly effect change, we need to investigate the root causes.

Legal Complexities: The Devil Is in the Details

Moreover, the bylaw opens a can of legal worms. Questions about what counts as an “egregious act,” what happens in the case of false claims, or how this affects sponsorship deals and similar contracts are bound to arise. If such rules are to be effective, they will need to be scrutinized for every possible interpretation and loophole.

Conclusion: The Jury’s Still Out

In conclusion, NMAA’s newly revised bylaw is a significant step in attempting to manage unsportsmanlike conduct. However, the efficacy of such a rule change remains to be seen. While the bylaw is ambitious, it raises numerous questions that need to be addressed for it to be truly effective. For now, it seems the journey to civil sportsmanship is still fraught with challenges that extend beyond mere rule-setting.

In My Opinion

The new bylaw may not have gone far enough to control parental bad fan behavior in high school sports. One additional idea is to punish the player with practice and game suspension for their parent’s bad behavior. Knowing that their child will face consequences for their bad behavior is likely to be a powerful positive motivator for parents. For other ideas on controlling sports violence, see my blog entitled Sports Anti-Violence Risk Management For Amateur Sports Associations.


This article was inspired by the original work of Gil Fried and published in Sports Facilities and the Law, a free-subscription publication for industry professionals. To read more from the publication, visit Sports Facilities and the Law.

Sports Anti-Violence Risk Management For Amateur Sports Associations

Violence incidents becoming increasingly common

Sports violence is on the rise and the public is being bombarded with accounts of violence between sports officials and spectators, coaches and spectators, and spectator on spectator. Sports officials are resigning in record numbers over actual or feared verbal and physical assaults. There are increasing accounts of gun violence in the stands and parking areas. This is not just at high school games, but is happening at youth sports events. A number of my sports insurance clients have approached me for advice this past year on how to possibly prevent these incidents from happening.  Although this type of violence has been present for some time, the increasing frequency and severity makes this an emerging risk in the amateur sports world which demands a response from risk management.

Violence in the media

Basketball referee in IN fights spectators and players.

North Texas youth football coach shot and killed by ex NFL player

MS softball umpire sucker punched by player’s mother

Masked man fires shots at FL youth football game injuring 4

Staff member is aggressor 

Coach vs coach

Coach vs player

Coach vs spectator

Coach vs sports official

Sports official vs coach

Sports official vs spectator

Spectator is aggressor

Spectator vs coach

Spectator vs sports official

Spectator vs spectator

Spectator vs player

Athlete is the aggressor

Athlete vs coach

Athlete vs sports official

Athlete vs spectator

Outside party other than spectator is aggressor

Outside party vs spectator

Drive by shootings

Gang related crimes

Active shooters

How can amateur sports organizations be sued for failure to prevent violence?

Negligent hiring, supervision, retention, etc. of staff members – Sports organizations should not hire or retain any staff member with a known propensity for violence. Information about past violence can be obtained by running a criminal background check. Any prospective staff member should be disqualified if their criminal background triggers a disqualification based on pre determined DQ criteria used by the league or suggested by the background check vendor. Any existing staff member who is charged with a crime that falls under the pre determined DQ criteria should be relieved of their duties pending the outcome of the investigation. Any staff member who exhibits violent behavior but is not charged should be scrutinized by the board of the sports organization with the appropriate sanction including termination or suspension.  The sports organization owes a duty of care to not employ staff members with a history of violence. Such staff members are a liability risk should they be involved in a future incident.

Failure to protect and control spectators  – Generally, facility owners and field users have a legal duty to control the conduct of spectators on their premises when they have the opportunity to control such parties and are reasonably aware of the need for such control. Second, facility owners and field users only have a duty to protect spectators, staff, and players from third-party assaults if the danger is reasonably foreseeable, including foreseeable criminal conduct. In other words, knowledge of past violence and criminal conduct as regards a particular spectator or group of spectators can trigger a legal duty to ensure that adequate security is in place. See Must Youth Sports Protect Fans From Assault.

Knowledge of potential violence from outside third parties (ex: drive by shootings, gang activity) and failure to take action  – Applying the same reasoning as regards spectator violence, if a sports organization has any knowledge that makes a violent act by an outside third party foreseeable (ex: rumor or threats on social media), such knowledge can trigger a legal duty to make sure adequate security is in place.

Anti-violence risk management techniques

Background check screening for coaches, administrators, and other volunteers

  • Background checks are critical to defend against lawsuits alleging negligent hiring, supervision, and retention of staff.
  • Should be a by-product of the existing sex abuse / molestation risk management screening of staff which is hopefully already in place.
  • Background checks not only screen for incidents of child abuse, but also for other crimes against persons that could indicate a propensity towards violence.
  • Any violation of your pre-existing disqualification criteria for staff which should include certain misdemeanors and felonies should result in disqualification.

Zero tolerance policy and codes of conduct

Sports organizations should have a zero tolerance policy for violent or other inappropriate behavior which may increase the chances of violence. Prohibition of these behaviors should be added to any existing code of conduct as applicable for players, staff, and parents/guardians/guests. Sports organizations that do not have these existing codes of conduct should develop them. Publication and enforcement of these codes of conduct is the cornerstone of any anti-violence risk management plan in sports.

Code of conduct basics

  • Separate codes of conduct are needed for players, staff, and parents/guardians/guests.
  • The codes of conduct should be made a part of a sports organization’s written rules and/or bylaws so that the sports organization is authorized to enforce violations. It’s too late to add a code of conduct after a prohibited behavior has already occurred.
  • The sports organization should be consistent in its enforcement policies. Failure to consistently apply a code of conduct can result in a legal challenge.
  • A written code of conduct contract should be signed as part of pre-season registration by all players, staff and parents/guardians.
  • The codes of conduct and behavior expectations should be reviewed at a mandatory pre-season meeting.
  • The codes should be distributed via email pre season and periodically throughout season as a reminder.
  • The codes should be posted on team/league website and social media.
  • Codes of conduct should always list possible sanctions to give them teeth.
  • Sanctions against individual violators are important. However, sanctions that apply against the child of a violator (ex: suspension for a week from practice and games) or the entire team (ex: repeat violations during the season can result in DQ from playoffs or loss of attendance privileges) can provide an even more powerful disincentive.
  • The applicable provisions of the code of conduct including sanctions for violation as it applies to parents/guardians and guests (ex: relative or friend of player) should be posted on signage upon entering facility. Since most facilities are owned by municipalities, the sports organization should bring mobile signage to display at events.
  • Referees / umpires, authorized facility management, and team/league host administrators should be empowered to eject staff, parents/guardians/guests, and other spectators for inappropriate behavior.
  • Sports organizations must be willing to enforce the codes.

Sample code of conduct signage 

Parent/Guardians/Guests/Other Spectators Code Of Conduct

  • No physical violence or threats of violence.
  • No verbal abuse or profanity.
  • Accept decisions of game officials and coaches on the field as being fair and called to the best of their ability.
  • No criticism of opposing team, its players, coaches or spectators by oral statement or gesture.
  • No interference with coaching staff or game officials before, after, or during the game.
  • No illegally entering the field of play, except when directed to do so by an official due to a medical emergency.
  • Violation of any of these rules will be subject to ejection by game officials, facility officials, host officials, or team/league officials.
  • Any spectator who is ejected must immediately leave the premises.
  • Other sanctions may include game stoppage, being banned temporarily or for the season, or team sanctions such as forfeiture or being banned from the post season.

Sample player code of conduct anti-violence provisions

  • Exhibit the ideals of sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and fair play.
  • Show courtesy to teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials.
  • Respect the decisions of coaches who are the instructional authority for the team.
  • Discourage teammates, parents, guardians, and other spectators from undermining the authority of the coach.
  • Refrain from the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products.
  • Refrain from profanity and trash talk.
  • Don’t criticize teammates.
  • Don’t post on social media to criticize teammates, opponents, coaches, officials, or parents.
  • No player on player sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, harassment, hazing, bullying, or negative social media.
  • No violence or threats of violence against teammates, opponents, coaches, sports officials, or spectators.
  • Violation will result in appropriate discipline by the sports organization including suspension, being banned for the season, or being banned permanently.


Sample staff (i.e. administrators, coaches, officials) code of conduct anti-violence provisions

  • Exhibit the ideals of sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and fair play.
  • Show courtesy to players, other coaches, officials, and opponents.
  • No physical violence or threats of violence.
  • No verbal abuse or profanity.
  • No invading personal space in a threatening way.
  • No illegally entering the field of play.
  • No violation of child abuse risk management plan including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, hazing, harassment, bullying, etc.
  • No use of alcohol, other illegal substances, or tobacco products.
  • Accept decisions of game officials and coaches on the field as being fair and called to the best of their ability.
  • No criticism of the opposing team, its players, coaches or spectators by oral statement or gesture.
  • No posting on social media to criticize players, opponents, coaches, officials, or parents.
  • Violation will result in appropriate discipline by the sports organization including suspension, being banned for the season, or being banned permanently.


Sample parents/guardians/guests code of conduct anti-violence provisions

  • Help make athletic contests a positive educational experience for youth.
  • Support my child’s team and teach the value of commitment to the team.
  • Direct any constructive criticism to the head coach or other administrator and work towards a positive result for all concerned.
  • If there are any concerns over your child’s playing time or role, wait until at least the next day after a game before addressing them with the head coach to provide a cooling off period.
  • No physical violence or threats of violence.
  • No verbal abuse or profanity.
  • No invading personal space in a threatening way.
  • No use of alcohol or other illegal substances.
  • Accept decisions of game officials and coaches on the field as being fair and called to the best of their ability.
  • No criticism of the opposing team, its players, coaches or spectators by oral statement or gesture.
  • No negative social media to criticize players, coaches, officials, opponents, or parents.
  • No interference with coaching staff or game officials before, after, or during game.
  • No illegally entering the field of play, except when directed to do so by an official due to a medical emergency.
  • Violation of any of these rules will be subject to ejection by game officials, facility management, or host administrators.
  • Any parent/guardian/guest who is ejected must immediately leave the premises.
  • Parents/guardians/guests who are ejected will be suspended from attending any practices or games for two weeks and their player will be suspended from all practices and games for one week. The second ejection during a season will result in the parent/guardian/guest being banned for the season and another week of suspension from practices and games for their player. Subsequent ejection during any season will result in a permanent ban from the sports program.
  • Any team with 3 or more ejections during a season will result in such team’s parents/guardians/guests no longer being allowed in stands or sidelines for the rest of the season (be sure to clear with legal counsel) and being declared ineligible for the playoffs.
  • Parents/guardians will relay this code of conduct to their invited guests and are responsible for their compliance.

Observation and situational awareness of premises

  • Appoint a facility, host, or team/league point person to patrol sidelines, spectator areas, and parking areas to scan for risks of violence. The point person should have a special name tag or vest to evidence their authority. It is important that this person should be impartial and should represent both teams and all participants.
  • Risks of violence include unauthorized persons in restricted areas, threats of violence, abusive language, other suspicious behavior, etc.
  • Point person should be trained on the OHNO approach (or similar) which stands for observe, initiate a hello, navigate the risk, obtain help. See
  • In the event a risk if identified, the point person should immediately notify the facility official, host official, or head team/league administrator in charge and/or call 911.

Planning for foreseeable problems to allocate internal and police resources

  • Administrators, coaches, parents, and players should be on the alert for threats of violence and should immediately notify officials.
  • Threats of violence can be uncovered from face to face conversations, text messages, or social media.
  • The sports organization should assign a point person to monitor social media and to receive information from players, coaches, and parents on potential violence.
  • Increased risk factors include
    • History of heated rivalry between teams
    • History of difficult coach, parent, or spectator
    • Racial tensions
    • Rumors of possible violence

Engage local law enforcement

  • Meet with law enforcement prior to the season to establish the proper contacts and what resources are available.
  • The best contact is often the community policing representative.
  • Law enforcement should be included in pre season emergency planning for risks of violence.
  • Some locations may be so hazardous in the opinion of law enforcement that the facility should not be used.
  • Law enforcement should be notified in advance for any game that has an increased risk of an incident.
  • Request regular police patrols of the roads and parking areas of the facility.
  • Ask about response times to an incident.
  • High risk environments may require police presence and patrolling at games.

Private security

  • Consider hiring private security if law enforcement can’t provide adequate resources, coverage, or response times.
  • Make sure that the private security company can provide a certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability and Professional Liability.
  • Be aware of indemnification and hold harmless agreements in contracts with private security which may make sports organizations contractually assume the liability which would ordinarily belong to the security company. Such contractual assumption of liability is typically not covered under General Liability policies taken out by sports organizations.

Other strategies

  • Require sportsmanship and anti-violence training for staff and parents. A number of online training courses are available from sources including the National Alliance For Youth Sports which was one of the first organizations to introduce codes of conduct for coaches and parents.
  • Positive reinforcement involving some type of season ending reward for parents such as refunding their child’s registration fees.
  • State legislation which magnifies criminal and civil penalties for umpire/referee violence and other sports related violence.


The increasing frequency and severity of sports violence is on the radar screen of insurance carriers as an emerging risk. Carriers will likely want to see proactive anti-violence risk management measures. The most promising measures are education through published zero tolerance policies, codes of conduct, and strict enforcement of sanctions. Other carriers may want to add General Liability exclusions because it is not the intent of carriers to pay claims arising from assault & battery, gun violence, and drive by shootings for example.


Violence In Youth Sports: Possible Preventative Measures And Solutions; Cheryl Danilewicz; Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas

Preventing violence in youth sport and physical education: the NOVIS proposal

Parental Rage And Violence In Youth Sports

Players Health Active Shooter In Sport Guidebook, Oct. 2022

Copyright 2022; Sadler & Company, Inc.; all rights reserved

Horror Stories About What Can Go Wrong

Serious lawsuits and injuries can happen in your sports organization.

Spectator InjuriesAsk yourself: Are you fully protected?

Our sports insurance clients file a large number of small to medium sized claims. But, we often hear “horror stories” about serious lawsuits and injuries. Besides being an insurance advisor, I am also an attorney and I know how these “horror stories” can turn into fear and worry. Will you be sued? How will you pay the medical bills?

I wanted to share these cases with you so that you will have a better understanding of some of the risks that you may face in the running of a sports organization. Below are descriptions of actual cases from our clients, including insurance carrier payment amounts.

General Liability Lawsuits

    • Youth camper near drowning incident in swimming pool resulting in brain injury. TX $3,387,832
    • Assistant coach was struck in the face by a pitched baseball while warming up the pitcher. FL $1,001,857
    • Youth football player died from heat stroke. GA $1,000,000
    • Alleged defamation against a league vendor. VA $388,417
    • Bleacher collapse with multiple injuries. LA $362,825
    • Child’s arm caught under tire after falling off parade float. NC $345,050
    • Spectator was struck in the jaw by an overthrown ball while standing in the spectator area. Player who threw the ball was warming up outside of the playing field. LA $326,212
    • Coach accused of inappropriate conduct with minor. AL $321,000
    • Player drowned in a lake while on a team picnic outing. SC $319,403
    • Batted ball travelled through netting in L Screen hitting coach. LA $198,823
    • Spectator hit in head by line drive while standing in line. SC $196,614
    • Sponsor signage blocked view resulting in auto fatality. FL $119,867
    • Concession stand worker injured back. CT $174,794
    • Youth football player tackled by opposing player. MD $141,658
    • Player ran out of bounds and stepped in hole fracturing elbow. CA $89,996
    • Parent sued for defamation. CA $84,610
    • Children swinging on gate knock another child down. TX $82,572
    • Child sustained injuries after his arm went through a glass window. FL $77,200
    • Player driven into 1st down marker, fracturing arm. CT $75,000
    • Spectator behind batting cage hit in head by ball. FL $75,000
    • Roughhousing during team outing resulting in fractured elbow. NY $65,855
    • Parent fell in hole while walking between fields. FL $65,000
    • Spectator suffered dislocated elbow after being struck when strong winds blew a tent over. NJ $62,346
    • Spectator fractured both ankles after stepping in a washed out grassy area.  TN $41,781
    • Baseball player was hit in mouth by bat of another player while in on-deck circle. FL $41,908
    • Spectator suffered leg laceration from metal bolt protruding from bleachers. RI $40,000
    • Spectator was hit in the head by a thrown ball during warm-ups resulting in head fracture and blood clot. MS $31,300
    • Coach was struck by baseball by one of the players from another team while coach was leaving the field. LA $13,898
    • Player injured while playing in creek. TN $20,000
    • Spectator fell off the grandstand and suffered head injury. SC $4,487
    • Youth football player was scolded by coach, humiliated, and forced to quit the team. CA $19,626
    • Infant was struck in head by foul ball. FL $5,000
    • Coach was observing tryouts from bleachers and caught foot and fell tearing ACL. NJ $12,906
    • While sliding into third base, claimant suffered laceration to lower leg. OH $15,829
    • Scorekeeper hit in head by foul ball resulting in concussion. MS $6,249
    • Spectator hit in face by baseball bat that flew out of batter’s hand. SC $5,078
    • Person injured when pinned between scoreboard table and golf cart. MS $50,000
    • Driver’s vision obscured by signage, kills passerby when making turn. FL $119,867
    • Children injured in bleacher collapse. LA $81,000
    • Children climbing on statue at awards banquet damage water fountain. IL $4,789
    • Spectator amputates finger while playing on swinging gate. IL $41,739
    • Parent lacerated head after tripping on uneven walkway to field. PA $25,514
    • Football equipment fell on minor. MI $271,464
    • Child fell through bleachers. CA $136,670
    • Spectators tripped and fell walking to restroom. CT $135,000
    • Trip and fall injury to participant. IL 134,956

Directors & Officers Liability Lawsuits

  • Alleged race discrimination for not allowing a team to join a football league resulted in no judgment or settlement being paid but in legal fees. WV $24,715
  • Alleged race discrimination for not allowing a team to join a baseball league resulted in no judgment or settlement being paid but in legal fees. MS $28,912

Volunteer Thefts – Crime Policy

  • President of baseball league took money from league funds and did not repay. FL $3,230
  • Director in charge of special projects took funds from BBQ and candy sales. TX $5,861

Equipment Losses – Equipment Policy

  • Baseball insuranceWater damage to uniforms and equipment. MI $57,547
  • Fire damaged equipment and baseball items. NY $62,380
  • Theft of bleachers, coffee machine, concession stand damaged. MO $11,790
  • Theft of football equipment. CA $28,918
  • Storage trailer broken into and uniforms stolen. PA $37,688

Injuries – Accident Policy

  • Running back fractured femur. CT $58,241
  • Defensive back fractured shoulder during practice. $55,750
  • Player injured in charter bus accident. TN $46,150
  • Running back tackled resulting in knee injury. TN $31,997
  • Cheerleader fell and fractured forearm. FL $25,333
  • Player fractured leg sliding into 3rd base.  $15,866
  • Softball player fractured leg sliding into home base. MS $69,398
  • Player in dugout hit in head by foul ball. FL $81,320
  • Player’s face injured during practice when no helmets were worn. FL $99,263
  • Assistant coach struck in face by pitched baseball while warming up pitcher. FL $104,000
  • Base runner suffered tendon/ligament damage to knee as a result of contact with home plate while sliding. TX $16,953
  • Infielder suffered fractured nose as a result of being struck by a thrown ball. LA $13,266
  • Pitcher suffered a fractured elbow as a result of being hit by a batted ball. NC $10,497
  • Base runner suffered a knee injury as a result of sliding foot first into a fixed base. TX $9,495
  • Youth football player was tackled and femur fractured when player fell on him. OH $18,218
  • Youth basketball player injured knee. TX $17,159
  • Adult soccer player suffered detached retina. CA $19,522
  • Adult soccer player suffered ACL tear. NV $18,872
  • Player breaks arm in fight during football game. OK $63,567

You should be concerned. But, there is a solution.

The insurance programs offered by Sadler & Company provide superior protection at the lowest possible cost. Click on the “Get a Quote” button on the navigation bar at the top of this page for an instant online quote.


Situational Awareness Reduces Risk at Sports / Entertainment Events

Preventing tragedies at concerts and other public events starts with situational awareness

The recent deaths of ten people at an Astroworld concert have brought the discussion of safety and accountability at crowded events to the forefront of the event industry. People have pointed fingers at performer Travis Scott, as well as security staff and the concertgoers themselves. Lost in all of the scrambling for a scapegoat is the true million-dollar question, “How do we prevent this from happening again?”

Responsibility falls on patrons as well

Situational awareness is a big key to preventing unwanted or tragic incidents. This responsibility falls on not only those working in the event industry but on the patrons as well. Audience members should be aware of the nearest exits, pay attention to the behaviors of people nearby and be prepared to sacrifice convenience for safety. Using the buddy system can also help to decrease the odds of a tragedy occurring. 

Tips for promoting large crowd safety

For those planning and executing large events, situational awareness is not the only piece of the puzzle. As the event industry examines how to best promote safety among large crowds, there are several other points to consider. 

  1. First and foremost, the event industry must work together to get out the message that safety is the highest priority. An event like the Astroworld tragedy has the power to undermine all of the good being done in the industry. Instead of allowing the negative backlash to result in a clamber for extra regulations and oversight, this is the time to underscore the positive measures the industry has taken to  ensure safety and to focus on moving forward.
  2. When planning for an event, everyone involved should think through the motivations of the patrons. We are living in a time when people are more likely to pull out their phones to film an event than to intervene on behalf of those in trouble. And in the era of a pandemic there are new challenges in trying to predict crowd behaviors. Guidelines related to masks and social distancing can produce angry responses. Societal behaviors are changing, and the event industry must adapt accordingly.
  3. A clear chain of communication should be established between everyone involved in running a major event. This is the time to analyze all policies related to crowd management and plug any holes. Communication should be explicit between all involved parties, from the performer to venue security to law enforcement.
  4. Those in charge of major events should disclose their security measures whenever possible. This can help to reduce any public perception of flippancy regarding safety and security. Patrons should know that there are plans in place to handle medical emergencies and that law enforcement will rapidly respond in the event of any safety threat.

Terrible incidents do not need to define the event industry. Those working on events can learn from the past, focus on the positive and continue providing wonderful experiences for their patrons. 

Source: William Rabb, “Astroworld Reminds Us – Semper Vigilans.” Sports Facilities and the Law, November-December 2021.

Saliva Test To Detect Sports Concussions Could Be Available Soon

Biomarkers in saliva test indicate head trauma

saliva based test

New research out of the University of Birmingham in England has found biomarkers the saliva test available can detect concussions in men. These results for men are within minutes. The biomarkers showcase how the body reacts and changes to head trauma hours and days after the initial incident.

The University has created the first non-invasive saliva concussion diagnostic test. The results showcased a 94% efficacy in their reporting for the male athletes.

This test has the potential to be instrumental in the early detection of concussions or head injuries. It is converting it into an over-the-counter testing kit for elite male athletes in the UK. Hopefully, if successful, it will be available to the United States as well.

But what is missing from this test?

While this is a remarkable find, testing for biomarkers in saliva has not yet commenced for women and children. Ongoing research is being conducted on the differences between male versus female concussions, with some exciting finds.


The Discrepancies between Male and Female Athletes

Though the exact cause remains unclear, the findings of this study show that females are potentially at a significantly greater risk for concussions than their male counterparts.

This study involving adolescent male and female soccer athletes studied sports-related concussions and the differences between the two. In their findings, most male sport-related concussions happen with direct contact with another player. On the contrary, many female athletes suffered from sports-related concussions from nonplayer contact such as heading the ball. When a player (mostly male) had a direct contact sports-related concussion, removal of play happened the day of the injury. In contrast, the female players might have had a sports-related concussion that would have gone undetected. The reason is simply that it is easier to track direct physical contact with another player. These findings revealed that the removal of males from play is approximately 1 ½ times greater than females.

How athletic trainers handle male and female head injuries is not equal either

Interestingly, when an athletic trainer was involved in the sports-related injury evaluation from the initial onset, the odds of immediate removal from the activity were three times greater for athletes, and males had a greater removal rate than the females. This study suggests the need for significant intervention for female athletes.sports concussions

Besides immediate removal, the study showed that females had a 60% to 80% greater risk for a Sports-Related Concussion than their male counterparts. Part of this finding was due to the physiological differences between the male and female athletes.

Female athletes have lesser neck strength and overall circumference in comparison to their male counterparts. Similarly, there are differences that likely make females more prone to microstructural sports-related concussions. In addition, earlier sports specialization results in a greater chance of injury and sports-related concussions. 

 What do these saliva tests and findings mean for sports organizations and their liability?

Part of this study has shown us important facts. Just because coaches cannot see a direct sports-related concussion does not mean it does not exist or did not happen. Evaluations for female athletes need as much urgency as their male counterparts. When in doubt, immediate removal from play is necessary to reduce further risk of injury. The demand for athletic trainers for both male and female sports teams to help in the evaluation process is high. Having discrepancies and differences between the two sexes in any sports organization opens the organization up for a greater risk of litigation.

Hopefully, as the new saliva test becomes readily available to male athletes, more testing can begin on females and children. This will only better aid the organization in determining a sports-related concussion in the early stages. The next steps can then be taken to help the athlete prevent a dangerous second impact syndrome injury, whether male or female.

If you are looking for more information on sports risk management and protecting your organization, please visit our extensive risk management library of resources. It includes important forms, documents, articles, videos, and risk management program templates on how to reduce the risk of injuries as well as your insurance premiums. Pay special attention to our section on brain injury/concussion risk management.

COVID-19 and Return-to-Play Webinar

Sadler Sports Insurance and Go4Ellis Webinar Recording

Sadler Sports Insurance partnered with Go4Ellis (on demand per diem access to athletic trainers) to produce a fantastic webinar on COVID-19 and return to sports. It was very well received by the live audience. Many of the participants said they received real value for the first time in the form of an actionable return to sports plan.

In the webinar, John Sadler covers the major COVID-19 issues to be considered:

  • Liability risk for transmission
  • Difficulty in proving a case
  • Legal defenses that are available
  • COVID-19 waiver/release
  • COVID-19 warning signage
  • Will General Liability cover a transmission lawsuit?

Coronavirus protocol in sports organizationsEllis Mair, the chief medical officer for Go4Ellis, presented the role that an athletic trainer can provide as you factor the COVID-19 risks into planning and implementation of your events. Athletic trainers are not only experts in sports injuries, but also in dealing with diseases such as COVID-19. Their ability to be your COVID Coordinator in executing the safest events possible could be immeasurable.

Below is the Zoom meeting link to the the previously-recorded webinar:

Outline of Topics Covered

COVID-19 Risk Assessment



Follow the Lead of Authority Sources

Risk Identification Checklist

  • Sport
  • Age Group
  • Event Type
  • Expected Attendance
  • Location
  • Local or Interstate

Insurance and Liability

  • Legal Theories of Recovery for COVID-19 Transmission
  • Elements Of COVID-19 Negligence Claim
  • Legal Risk Compared with Child Abuse or Concussions
  • Does General Liability Cover COVID-19 Transmission Lawsuits?
  • COVID-19 Waiver/Release
  • COVID-19 Warning Signage
  • Other Legal Defenses
  • Homeowners Liability and Personal Umbrella

How Hiring an Athletic Trainer helps Sports Organizations Execute Mitigation Strategies and Support Event Operators

  • COVID Coordinator
  • Pre-event Communication
  • PPE
  • Temperature Screening
  • Monitoring
  • State / Local Compliance Documentation
  • Participant Evaluation And Response



Updated: Amateur Sports and COVID-19: How To Return to Play

Updated 3/24/2021 – See blue font areas for recent updates. Returning visitors should always refresh the page to see the latest changes.

Applying Risk Management to Address Coronavirus Risk to Allow Your Organization to Re-Open and Return to Play

The coronavirus threat and the ultimate impact on society and the sports community is starting to come into focus with the pandemic apparently winding down due to a combination of increasing natural immunity due to infections, vaccines, and increased public practice of prevention techniques such as social distancing and wearing of face masks . The trends have swung from mitigation to cancellation and back to mitigation again with red states leading the way while blue states have taken a more cautious approach to return to play. And many sports organizations have now gone through the entire cycle with a playing season under their belt and have refined mitigation best practices to a workable formula with the apparent low incidence of on field spread and no known COVID transmission lawsuits.

From a pure liability perspective for the reasons to be explained, COVID-19 currently poses a much lesser severity risk (risk of large dollar payout) to sports organizations than the traditional severity risks of child abuse / molestation and concussion / brain Injury. However, in other respects, COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges due to the elements of societal fear, unknown outcome, incorrect and/or changing information, unparalleled role of media, red state / blue state politics, involvement of government regulation in return to play, threat of financial failure due to shut down and loss of registrations, and mitigation techniques that touch almost every aspect of operations and demand utmost management attention. Nevertheless, any significant threat, including COVID-19, can be addressed with the application of the risk management process and many risk managers and sports organizations have already risen to the occasion.

There is legal safety in following the lead of authority sources

In order to prove negligence in failure to cancel or mitigate risks, courts will look to authority sources to determine the standard of care that is owed to sports organization staff, participants, and spectators. Therefore, sports organizations should pay close attention to the mandatory governmental regulations and/or recommended guidelines published by the various authority sources:

  • Federal/State/Local government: Constantly monitor governmental health agencies such as U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your state’s public health department and other county/local authorities.
  • CDC Considerations For Youth Sports: The CDC published guidelines for return to play for youth sports on May 19 of 2020 and a subsequent update on December 31, 2020 in a document entitled Considerations For Youth Sports. However, the CDC states that these considerations are meant to only supplement and not replace any state and local government laws, rules, and regulations that pertain to youth sports organizations.
  • School Districts: School districts provide localized advice based on the levels of coronavirus risk in a particular community. However, the risk components of school sports may be different than those posed by local, community-based sports organizations.
  • Sports Governing And Sanctioning Bodies: Monitor the websites, emails, and social media from the sports governing and sanctioning bodies that oversee your sport. Examples of sports governing and sanctioning bodies include NFHS, USA Softball, and USSSA.
  • NFHS Revised Guidance On COVID-19: The National Federation Of State High School Associations published NFHS Revises Guidance on COVID-19 Testing During High School Sports on February 2, 2021. This revision provides new insight that the majority of sports related spread of COVID-19 appears to not occur during sports participation, but instead from social contact off the playing field.

Potential liability exposure exists for sports organizations

Below are the most common legal theories of recovery for a claimant who has been allegedly exposed to coronavirus with resulting sickness or death:

  1. Negligent failure to cancel event resulting in COVID-19 transmission.
  2. Negligent failure to take mitigation steps if events are not cancelled resulting in COVID-19 transmission.

It’s one thing to allege negligence, but it must be proved by showing:

  1. Duty owed to the claimant (may be different for participants vs spectators)
  2. Breach of duty by not following mandatory regulations and/or guidelines on cancellation or mitigation from sources as CDC, state health departments,  county/local authorities, and sports governing bodies. It may be difficult for a claimant to prove that a duty has been breached. A sports organization has a duty to minimize COVID transmission hazards, not to completely eliminate them. If a sports organization has complied with the applicable standards of care, it would have a strong argument to contest breach of duty.
  3. Breach of duty was the proximate cause of the sickness. Proving causation may be a tall order according to law professor Benjamin Zipurski of Fordham University. Zipurski states that a claimant would need to prove they did not have a virus before the event, they did not come in contact with anyone or any shared spaces on the way to the event, and they did not come in contact with anyone or any shared spaces after the event. This is further complicated by the long incubation period of COVID-19 which may be up to two weeks.  On the other hand, it may be possible to trace the transmission of  COVID-19 if a cluster of multiple people who attended the same event become infected. Despite early media publicity over new smart phone COVID exposure tracking apps, that these initiatives did not get off the ground due to low voluntary participation as well as concerns over privacy intrusions.
  4. Damages (medical bills, loss of income, loss of companionship, disability, pain and suffering, etc.)

In order to prevail, the claimant must prove all 4 elements listed above. Failure to prove just one element will result in failure to prove negligence.

COVID liability frequency and severity risk and as compared to child sex abuse and brain injury

So far, the frequency risk (risk of many small lawsuits being filed) of COVID lawsuits is low since there are no known COVID transmission lawsuits that have been filed against sports organizations; however, this may change with the return to play phase. As regards the severity potential (risk of large dollar payout), even though COVID transmission can result in serious injury or death to one or multiple persons, it is believed by most insurance industry experts that the potential for large payouts is low due to the difficulties in proving the proximate causation that is required to prevail in a negligence lawsuit. A common thought among these experts is that COVID liability poses a much lower severity risk than sex abuse / molestation or concussion / brain injury. Also, a COVID claimant is less likely to be angry and seeking revenge since sports organizations, despite their best mitigation efforts, have less control over COVID as compared to preventing child sexual abuse or second impact syndrome and resulting brain injury, for example. In addition, there is a much stronger case for assumption of risk with COVID as compared to child sex abuse and brain injury.

Recent interviews conducted in January of 2021 with claims departments of leading sports insurance underwriters indicate that no General Liability claims have been filed to date against sports and recreation organizations for negligent COVID transmission. This is important since many sports organization never shut down operations after the start of the pandemic which means that there has been significant exposure with no litigation so far.

However, based on sports administrator feedback, it appears that some administrators still fear the COVID liability risk even more than child sexual abuse or brain injury even if such fears may be unfounded. Perhaps the reason is because media outlets continue to remind the public various times throughout the day about new COVID cases and death counts and how society will never be the same. Just image how fears over child sexual abuse and brain injury would be magnified if the media were to constantly remind parents of the daily counts of child sex abuse and concussion incidents.

Legal Defenses To COVID-19 Lawsuits

In order to prove a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prevail on all 4 elements listed above. As discussed, the element of proximate cause may be difficult to prove in the case of a COVID-19 transmission allegation.

But there are also the following legal defenses that are available:

  • Waiver/Release With COVID-19 Language – Existing waiver/release agreements for minors and adults should be modified to add language releasing the sports organization from liability resulting from illness such as communicable diseases including COVID-19. Or, a specific COVID-19 waiver/release may be used. In some states, a waiver/release may result in lawsuit dismissal by summary judgment depending on if the participant is an adult or minor. Even if the waiver does not result in a quick dismissal, they often reduce the amount of damages owed. See our blog entitled Are Waivers Worth The Paper They Are Written On?
  • Assumption Of Risk – Spectators and participants assume a known risk when they decide to attend or participate in a sporting event. Who has not been warned of the risks of coronavirus by the media? An assumption of risk defense can be strengthened by a COVID-19 waiver/release signed by all participants/parents as well as COVID-19 warning signage.
  • Contributory or Comparative Negligence – Spectators and participants may share in the negligence to the extent that they did not practice personal discipline in taking precautions against transmission. This may result in a total bar or an offset against damages depending on state law.
  • Federal Volunteer Protection Act – The federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 provides certain immunity for volunteers of not for profit associations. There are also state law versions which are preempted by the federal act to the extent that the federal act provides stronger protections. These immunity acts do not apply to the extent of gross negligence or other wanton or willful behavior
  • Federal Or State COVID-19 Immunity – Talk of a federal COVID-19 immunity act failed to materialize in August of 2020. The Following States have some form of COVID immunity whether by statute or executive order: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. These statutes and executive orders will provide much needed relief but will exempt willful or reckless disregard for COVID-19 mitigation best practices.

Regardless of the difficulties of a claimant in proving negligence and the existence of these defenses, we live in a litigation happy society and even frivolous litigation can result in legal defense costs.

Does General Liability insurance provide coverage for sports organization that are sued for failure to cancel or mitigate?

Here is the short answer:

No one can say with 100% certainty whether a General Liability policy will pay for part or all of a COVID-19 transmission lawsuit. The insurance carriers did not contemplate that this policy would pay for liability arising from a pandemic. But whether the carrier will be forced to respond and pay for a legal defense is a complicated matter. The answer depends on a number of factors including the exact causes of action alleged in the lawsuit papers, the facts in a particular case, the existence of certain exclusions in the policy, and how the various courts and jurisdictions interpret the policy provisions.

If your policy does not include a specific exclusion for communicable disease, virus, or pandemic, you have a much better chance that your carrier will provide legal defense and coverage according to several sports insurance industry claims managers. Insurance carriers are cautious and often provide legal defense under a reservation of rights letter due to fears over a bad faith refusal to settle lawsuit and the associated multiplied and punitive damages. However, even without the communicable disease exclusion, carriers will likely refuse to defend if a sports organization engages in blatantly negligent behavior such as returning to play before clearance by state and local authorities and failure to implement the most basic mitigation best practices.

In addition, if just one of the causes of action in the lawsuit papers is potentially covered, the insurance carrier will normally be required to provide a legal defense even if any settlement or adverse jury verdict is not completely covered. And a legal defense is likely to be the most important element in a COVID-19 transmission lawsuit since as it will be extremely difficult to prove negligence for the reasons stated above.

Here is the long answer:

In a very brief and over-simplified summary, the General Liability policy responds to certain lawsuits alleging “bodily injury”  or “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” and not otherwise excluded. COVID-19 definitely falls under the definition of “bodily injury” which includes sickness.  But whether a COVID transmission event is an “occurrence” could be subject to debate. Generally, an “occurrence” is similar to an accident and is something that is not intended or expected. Some courts may rule that a transmission during an event in the middle of a pandemic does not fall under the policy definition of an “occurrence” if the outcome would be expected. Other courts may rule that there is an “occurrence” because the transmission was accidental and unintended even if the decision to hold the event was a poor one.

If the court finds that a COVID transmission incident is an “occurrence”, coverage then hinges on whether an exclusion applies. An exclusion is a provision that takes away coverage. To follow are some potential exclusions that could result in a claim denial:

  • Communicable Disease, Pandemic, Or Virus Exclusion – As of the initial publication date of this blog in March of 2020, most sports General Liability policies did not include such exclusions. However, as predicted, the vast majority of sports General Liability carriers started to include a communicable disease exclusion for new and renewal business as of September of 2020.
  • Intentional Injury Exclusion –  The intentional injury exclusion applies to “bodily injury” (includes sickness) that is expected or intended. If the sports organization moves forward with practice or play despite a mandate to the contrary from the state or municipality or without following recommended mitigation techniques, some authorities have suggested that it is possible that the insurance carrier may deny the claim citing the intentional injury exclusion. This is based on if a reasonable person could or should expect the virus to spread because of actions taken or decisions made. However, according to IRMI, such an interpretation may not be appropriate as “in order to rely on this exclusion, the insurer must demonstrate bodily injury or property damage was expected or intended by the insured—whether the act itself was intentional is not the measure of this exclusion.”
  • Pollution Exclusion – Some courts have ruled that a virus is a “pollutant” for the purposes of the pollution exclusion. However, the majority view is that a naturally occurring contaminant such as a virus is not a “pollutant” because it does not fall under the category of environmental pollution.

Homeowners Liability And Personal Umbrella Insurance May Provide Coverage For Individual Volunteers

Homeowners Liability and Personal Umbrella policies usually cover insureds while conducting duties as a volunteer for not for profit sports organizations. If these policies don’t include an applicable communicable disease or similar exclusion, it is possible that they are a source of legal defense and would pay for any settlement or adverse jury verdict. Most personal policies do include some type of communicable disease exclusion, but many are worded to apply only to situations where the insured was personally the source of the transmission of the communicable disease. Of course, that is usually not the case where an insured is a volunteer coach or administrator and is shot gunned into a lawsuit. The carriers may also argue that the transfer of a communicable disease was not an “accident” or was an “intentional injury” but these are not likely the majority view. In any event, any COVID claim naming an individual volunteer staff member or administrator should be turned in to any existing Homeowners Liability or Personal Umbrella carriers.

Different levels of transmission risk factors for different sports organizations

The following factors should be considered when a sports organization makes decisions regarding cancellation or how to best mitigate coronavirus risks. Know the risk factors for your particular sports organization and tailor a plan to fit your specific needs.

  • What is happening in your specific community is the best indicator of risk. If coronavirus is present or widespread in your community, you should increase your level of aggressiveness in applying risk management.
  • Limiting high risk behavior off the field by social distancing 6 feet and wearing face masks greatly reduces on field risks. 
  • Physical closeness of players within 6 feet of one another. Sports that require contact or close proximity have more risk and steps should be taken to modify by focusing on individual skill building instead of competition or by forming cohort groups that remain together and work through skill building rotations.
  • Level of intensity in terms of a higher level of assertion increases risk. High intensity sports or conditioning are safer when moved outdoors.
  • Length of time participants, both players and staff, are exposed to each other increases risk. The revised standard is to limit exposure within 6 feet for under 15 cumulative minutes over a 24 hour time period.
  • Indoors activities carry significantly more risk than outdoor activities. Indoor risk can be reduced by moving all possible activities outdoors, increasing ventilation and filtration, drawing air in from outdoors, and having fans blow air outside.
  • When not actually engaging in the sports, if physical distancing can be increased on the sidelines, dugout, or bench, risk can be reduced.
  • Type of competition: the risk of transmission increases from lower to higher as organizations move from virtual conditioning and training at home under instructions from a coach; team-based practice with social distancing and no sharing of equipment; team-based practice without social distancing and sharing of equipment; within-team scrimmaging; competition with teams from within your geographic area; and competition between teams from different geographic regions
  • Analyze separately the risks from the perspective of staff, participants, spectators, and third-party vendors. Mitigation plans may need to be customized for each group.
  • According to the CDC, the risks to older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions are elevated. According to U.S News & World Report, children and teens are at a lower risk and typically have milder symptoms or none at all and the death rate is much lower than middle aged and older populations. Exposure transmission to seniors may occur in their role as sports participants, coaches, spectators, or parent/guardians. Mitigation plans should be adopted to protect those with the highest level of risk.
  • Playing locally vs travel: Local play entails less transmission risk than air, bus, or train travel. Staff and participant travel to out-of-town conferences or competitions is a higher risk activity.
  • Spectators: Higher spectator transmission rates can be expected when spectators are indoors, confined in a small enclosed space, seniors, or have compromised immune systems.
  • Crowd size: The larger the crowd size, the greater the transmission risk. Sports organizations may adopt guidelines to reduce risk by limiting attendance to one person per participant; maintaining separate entry and exit points; not allowing congregating at common areas such as concessions, bathrooms, and information boards; and enforcing social distancing guidelines of 6 feet between non family members.
  • Sport specific shared equipment: Different sports have different levels of touching shared equipment followed by the touching of participant mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Player ages: Younger age groups have more difficulty in following instructions about social distancing; touching mouth, nose, or eyes; sharing water bottles; etc.
  • Size of team: Teams with higher numbers of participants have increased transmission risks. Consider decreasing team size or breaking up teams into pods that have limited close contact with other pods within the same team.

Sample risk management guidelines to mitigate COVID risks

(Note: references to staff means coaches, team specific staff, and general league staff members which may include directors/officers, umpires/referees, gate workers, scorekeepers, concessions, field maintenance, janitorial, etc.)


  • COVID Coordinator: Appoint a COVID coordinator to oversee all aspects of the COVID risk management plan including development from appropriate resources, implementation, monitoring, updates/changes, communications, staff training, regulatory compliance, and answering player, parent, and staff questions about COVID concerns.
  • Compliance With State And Local Guidelines: Make sure that the sports organization is in compliance with all state and local COVID guidelines including return to play dates and maximum group sizes.
  • Training: Train all players and staff on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
  • COVID Self-Reporting: Be familiar with and comply with all regulatory requirements, privacy policies, and information sharing regulations as regards COVID-19 self reporting of symptoms or positive tests by players or staff as well as by related family members with whom they have had close contact.
  • Spread Out Scheduling Of Practice And Games: There should be enough time between practices and games to allow one group to vacate the premises before the next group enters as well as for proper sanitation of surfaces and other equipment.
  • Back Up Staff: Have a back up staffing plan in the event that staff members become infected.
  • High Risk Staff: Limit staff with underlying conditions from attending or working the sporting event. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)
  • Documentation: In the event of COVID transmission litigation, the sports organization must be able to provide written documentation of the implementation of the COVID risk management program.


  • Pre-Season: Sports programs should disseminate information to all staff, players, parents, and spectators about the COVID risk and practices that should be undertaken to mitigate risks. Information should be disseminated by way of email, social media, coach talks, and public announcements.
  • Self-Reporting Of COVID Symptoms: Be prepared to disseminate information to concerned parties about any COVID-19 incident while complying with all regulatory requirements and privacy laws.
  •  Staff Meetings: Consider cancelling in-person staff meetings and replace with Zoom meetings or conferencing by telephone.
  • Risks To Seniors: Provide notice to all parents or guardians of the enhanced risks of players being in direct contact or anyone 65 or older for 14 days after participating in a sport event or practice. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)


  • Stay Home When Appropriate: Players, staff, and spectators should be instructed in communications to stay home when they are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have a temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have had close contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • Social Distance By Staying At Least 6 Feet Apart
  • Wear Face Masks: Require face masks at all time pre-event and make sure they are properly covering nose and mouth.
  • Limit Carpooling And Team Travel.
  • Symptom Checking: Conduct pre-event observation and/or questioning of all players and staff about the existence of any COVID symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or known close contact with person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19. (Source: TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators.)
  • Temperature Check: Players, staff, and spectators should be asked to take their own temperature before leaving the house and they should stay at home with any reading of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher according to CDC definitions of reportable illnesses for contagious disease. The sports organization can assign a staff member to use an infrared non-contact forehead thermometer to take the temperature of all players and staff before they enter the field/facility. Any reading of 100.4 or higher should result in a denial of entry. These thermometers are now commonly available for under $100. (Note: The CDC Considerations for Youth Sports guidelines no longer suggest taking temperature checks at home or on location but this still may be a requirement of state or local governments.)
  • No Congregation: Players and team staff should not congregate prior to a practice or competition event and should stay in cars until right before warm ups for the practice or competition and should avoid other groups that are leaving the prior event. (Move this under Limit Carpooling And Team Travel.)
  • Team Check In Process:  Team staff and players should continue social distancing during the team check in process for competitions. There should be a single point of contact for teams during events. (Move under No Congregations after you move No Congregation.)
  • Disinfect Hard Surfaces: When arriving at team seating or sideline areas, team staff should disinfect all hard surfaces such as benches, railings, and equipment racks.


  • Cleaning: Team staff should clean and dispose of all trash from player seating or sideline areas when departing practice or games.
  • No Congregation: Players and team staff should quickly exit the practice or playing location after the event and go directly to their cars without congregating with other teams or spectators in common areas.

Social Distancing

  • 6 Ft. Rule: All players, staff, and spectators should practice social distancing of 6 ft. whenever possible, especially in common areas.
  • Mask Wearing: All players, staff, and spectators should wear a mask in addition to social distancing to greatly reduce the risk of infection.
  • Pre And Post Event Social Distancing: Social distancing should be practiced by players and staff during all locker room activities, instruction, explanation of rules, pre-game strategy, and post game briefing sessions.
  • Restructure Practices: Restructure practices to greatest extent possible to concentrate of conditioning, drills, skill building and limit close contact to a specified number of minutes during simulation drills and scrimmages.
  • Breaking Up Large Teams: Consider breaking up large teams into pods during practice that have limited close contact with other pods on the same team.
  • Pre-Game Warm Ups: During pre-game, players and staff should maintain the 6 ft. distance if possible during warm ups and drills and should only have close contact during actual competition.
  • Social Distancing Monitors: Identify adult staff members to help maintain social distancing between players, staff, and spectators (if allowed by state law).
  •  No Handshakes/Celebrations: Players and staff should refrain from handshakes, high fives, fist/elbow bumps, chest bumps, group celebrations, etc.
  • Waiting In Cars: Players and team staff should wait in their cars with parents/guardians until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up or game instead of assembling in groups.
  • Car Pools: Discourage the use of car pools to transport participants who do not live in the same household.
  • Spectator Social Distancing: Spectators should follow social distancing of 6 ft. whenever possible and should avoid being in groups of greater than 10 persons. Where social distancing is not feasible, spectators should wear face coverings and wash hands or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) frequently.
  •  Limiting Spectator Attendance: Some sports organizations may choose to limit spectator risk by limiting attendance to essential staff and limited family members.
  • Off Site Activities: Avoid off site team activity events such as swimming, team meals, bowling, watching professional teams, etc.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) And Personal Disinfectants

  • Educate: Teach players and staff and reinforce the use of wearing cloth face coverings. Wearing face coverings is most critical when physical distancing is difficult.
  • Face Coverings For Coaches And Staff: All staff should wear PPE such as face coverings and gloves whenever applicable. (Note: CDC Considerations For Youth Sports does not suggest the use of gloves except for when removing garbage bags or disposing of trash.)
  • Player Face Coverings: Players should wear face coverings in close contact areas and situations where applicable. Players should be allowed to wear face coverings during competition if they choose to do so as long as they don’t compromise the safety of any and all participants.
  • Parent / Spectator Face Coverings: Parents and spectators should wear face coverings whenever they are at the facility and in close contact with a non family member.
  • Don’t Touch Face: All persons wearing face coverings should be reminded to not touch their face covering and to wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) frequently.
  • Player Provided Hand Sanitizer And Wipes: Parents should provide all players with hand sanitizer for use between play periods as well as antibacterial wipes for disinfecting player provided equipment.
  • Staff Provided Hand Sanitizer And Wipes: Staff members should provide their own hand sanitizer for frequent use and antibacterial wipes for disinfecting hard surfaces and shared equipment.

Playing Equipment

  •  Spacing Of Player Equipment: Player equipment should be spaced accordingly to prevent close contact.
  • Player Provided Equipment: Players should be encouraged to bring their own equipment and to not share with others. Player provided equipment should be kept separate and in individual bags or containers.
  • Limit Team Shared Equipment: The use of team shared equipment (e.g. protective gear, balls, bats, etc.) should be limited whenever possible and should be sanitized after each use if possible. Otherwise, limit use of team shared supplies and equipment to one group of players at a time and sanitize between use.
  • Water Bottles: Water and sports drink jugs should no longer be provided by sports facilities or sports organizations. Players and staff should bring their own water bottles to all team activities to help to reduce transmission risk. Individuals should take their own water bottles home each night for cleaning and sanitation. Visiting teams should also bring their own water bottles.


  • Foot Traffic Control: Larger facilities should encourage social distancing by designing multiple foot traffic entry and exit points.
  • Water Fountains: Should be closed with tape and signage stating that they are not to be used. Or, if they are to remain in service, should be sanitized at least hourly during use but participants should be encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
  • Concessions: Concessions should be discontinued unless the sports organization is in a position to strictly enforce precautions. Precautions include 6 ft spacing markers in concession lines between customers; staff instructed to not report to duty if they don’t feel well, have symptoms, or have a temperature; staff required to wear gloves and face masks; steps taken to prevent cross contamination; and frequent sanitation of all surfaces.
  • Rest Rooms: Small rest rooms should limit occupancy to one person at a time and larger rest rooms should provide 6 ft distance markings.
  • Cleaning/Disinfecting: Sports facility owners/operators and team staff should use disposable disinfectant wipes on all training areas, locker rooms, equipment, common areas, door handles, railings, water fountains, seating, bathrooms, etc. on a regular basis.
  • Hand Washing And Hand Sanitizer Stations: Facilities should provide hand washing stations that are foot activated and hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) stations.
  • Information Boards: Discontinue the use of physical posting of brackets, rules, etc. and instead post online.

Sports Organization Provided Supplies

  • Hand Sanitizer: If hand washing stations are not readily available at the facility, sports organizations should provide hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) and should schedule mandatory use at breaks.
  • Food: If food is offered, provide in pre-packaged boxes or bags for each player or staff member and don’t share utensils.

Personal Discipline

  • Hygiene/Hand Washing/Touching Face/Laundering: Players and staff should practice proper hygiene, wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol), abstain from touching their face (mouth, eyes, or nose), refrain from spitting, and cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw tissue in the trash.  Carry small bottles of alcohol-based disinfectant when hand washing facilities are not available. Clothes should be laundered after all workouts.
  • Healthy Practices: All players and staff should practice healthy habits including adequate hydration to keep mucous membranes moist, consume a varied, vitamin-rich diet with sufficient vegetables and fruits, and get adequate sleep.

When Someone Gets COVID-19 Or Has Close Contact

  • Educate: Make sure that staff and family members understand that any sick person should not attend any activities and that they should notify the COVID coordinator if they or any other staff member or player becomes sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tests positive, or has had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive.
  • If COVID Symptoms Exhibited During Event: If a player or staff member exhibits symptoms during an event, they should immediately be separated and sent home or to a health care facility depending on the severity of the symptoms. They should not be allowed to return to activity until they have met the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.
  • Player Or Staff Member Return To Sports Activity: See CDC guidelines on When You Can Be Around Others After You Had Or Likely Had COVID-19. Here is a summary:
    • They think or know they had COVID-19, and had symptoms: Players and staff can be with others after: 10 days since symptoms first appeared and 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (does not include loss of taste or smell). Deciding when they can be around others does not require testing. But, if their healthcare provider recommends testing, the healthcare provider will let them know depending on their test results when they can resume being around others.
    • They tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms: Players and staff can be with others if they continue to have no symptoms after 10 days have passed since positive viral test. Deciding when they can be around others does not require testing. But, if their healthcare provider recommends testing, the healthcare provider will let them know depending on their test results when they can resume being around others. If they develop symptoms after testing positive, they must follow guidance above for “They think or know that they had COVID-19, and had symptoms.”
    • They were severely ill with COVID-19 or had a severely weakened immune system due to a health condition or medication: People under this category may need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. They should talk to their healthcare provider for more information as regards when they can be around others.
    • They have been around a person with COVID-19: Players and staff who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person. They can check their local health department’s website for information about options in their area to possibly shorten the quarantine period. In addition, if they have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and who meets the following criteria, they do NOT need to stay home: someone who has been fully vaccinated within the last three months and shows no symptoms of COVID-19 OR somone who has COVID-19 illness within the previous 3 months and has recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms (ex: cough, shortness of breath).
    • Close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. This is the operational definition however other factors may come into play including proximity (closer than 6 feet); whether the infected individual exhibits symptoms; if the individual was coughing, singing, or shouting; whether the setting is indoors or outdoors; if indoors, the ventilation; but the wearing of a mask by the should not be a mitigating factor since the general public has not received training on mask selection or fitting.
  • Player Or Staff Has Close Contact: Anyone with close contact with a person exhibiting symptoms should also be separated and sent home and should follow CDC guidelines for self-monitoring and procedures for community related exposures.
  • Cleaning / Disinfecting Surfaces: Any areas, surfaces, or shared objects used by a sick person should be closed off and not used until after cleaning and disinfecting. If possible, it is recommended to wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Notification: Notify local health officials, staff, and family members of player immediately of any lab confirmed case of COVID-19 while complying with local state and privacy and confidentiality laws as well as with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Maintain rosters of which players and staff were in attendance at any practice or competition event for contract tracing purposes.

Risk Warning And Assumption Of Risk

  • Waiver/Release: Waiver/release agreement forms should be updated to address the risk of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 in addition to injury. See our updated waiver/release agreements for minors and adults. In addition, we have a new, stand alone COVID-19 waiver/release for those sports organizations that already collected their normal waiver/release forms for the season.
  • COVID-19 Warning Signage: Post conspicuous signage at sports facility in highly visible locations (ex: entry, exit, and rest rooms) warning of coronavirus risks and what steps can be taken to reduce such risks. Here is some sample language that should be reviewed by local legal counsel:
    • COVID-19 Risk Warning
      •  It is suggested that seniors or others with compromised immune systems not participate in or attend this event due to risk of infection.
      • Do not enter if you are exhibiting any signs of illness such as sneezing, coughing, sniffles, have fever, or don’t feel well.
      • Do not enter if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and have not been cleared or if you have had close contact with someone who has.
      • If you are repeatedly sneezing or coughing, you may be asked to immediately leave the premises.
      • All players, staff, and spectators should practice responsible social distancing by remaining at least 6 ft apart whenever possible.
      • All players, staff, and spectators should wear face coverings whenever applicable.
      • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer upon entrance, during the event, before and after you eat, and as you leave. Hand washing and hand santizer stations are provided.
      • Avoid touching your face including your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Small public restrooms should limit occupancy to one person at a time.
For more details on the sample mitigation guidelines above, see CDC Considerations For Youth Sports.

Sadler COVID-19 Risk Management Templates 

Other insurance policies that may apply to coronavirus

Event Cancellation Insurance is a stand-alone policy that pays for certain financial loss if an event is cancelled, postponed, curtailed or relocated beyond the control of the policyholder. Covered perils may include, but are not limited to, hurricanes, earthquakes, severe/adverse weather, outbreak of communicable disease, terrorism, labor strikes, non-appearance of key people, and unavailability of the venue due to fires, floods or power outages

Though outbreaks of communicable disease are commonly covered under Event Cancellation policy forms, the two leading carriers have recently started to exclude (not cover) coronavirus on newly issued policies. One carrier is issuing a specific coronavirus exclusion, whereas the other considers it to be an excluded pre-existing condition. However, Event Cancellation policies issued prior to the addition of the recent coronavirus restrictions may not have a coronavirus exclusion.

Also note that even if a coronavirus exclusion does not exist, a claim would only be covered if it is not possible for the event to move forward due to travel restrictions, state or local ordinance restrictions, or the suspension of facility operations. These factors are beyond the control of the insured. It is not enough that the attendees or event organizers have a fear of traveling or of catching the virus and voluntarily make the decision to cancel or alter the event.

Directors & Officers Liability covers the business entity and its directors and officers against certain lawsuits alleging managerial negligence that results in economic damages or the violation of rights of others under state, federal, or constitutional law. It is possible that a decision involving the failure to anticipate the financial impact of coronavirus and to take appropriate action could result in economic damages to the business and a subsequent lawsuit by shareholders or other stakeholders against the negligent directors and officers. However, D&O carriers may attempt to deny such a claim because of the “bodily injury” exclusion that is found in D&O policies. Many claims adjusters will take the position that economic damages arising out of bodily injury (i.e. coronavirus sickness) are excluded. However, this position is already being challenged in the courts in other contexts and the ultimate results are unclear.

Worker’s Compensation / Employer’s Liability Insurance covers certain on-the-job injuries and occupational diseases to employees and uninsured subcontractors, including medical bills, lost wages, and disability awards. It’s possible that an infected employee could file a Workman’s Compensation claim. However, Worker’s Compensation Commissions in some states may take the position that a covered occupational disease must be one that is specific to employment and not an ordinary disease to which the general public is exposed outside of employment. An exception may be health care workers who are exposed as part of their employment.

Business Interruption.  Sports facility owners and other sports organizations that own buildings or insure contents may carry a Commercial Property policy. Commercial Property policies often include Business Interruption / Extra Expense insurance which provides coverage for loss of business income (lost profit plus continuing operating expenses) while operations are totally or partially shut down as a result of a covered loss to insured property.  Also provided is Extra Expense coverage for the additional and necessary expenses after a loss to the extent that they offset the Business Income loss. In order for Business Income coverage to be triggered, there must be a direct physical loss to the property that is being covered, whether it is building or contents.

Some Property policies may include a coverage called Contingent Business Interruption which can trigger coverage in the event that there is a covered loss to the premises of suppliers, customers, or key partners. This coverage does not require any such loss at the insured’s own premises.

It is doubtful that contamination of building and contents would be considered a direct physical loss that would trigger business interruption coverage. Also, many property policies include a virus or bacteria exclusion which would further restrict coverage.

In addition, the Property policy may include coverage for acts of civil authorities that restrict access to an area. If such coverage exists, this may trigger a covered Business Interruption claim.

Coverage for any of the above-referenced Business Interruption coverages is not certain. Each case will depend on its own unique facts. Furthermore, the outcome will be dependent on the policy form and the existence of certain bacteria or virus exclusions that may apply. However, these claims may at least be worth discussing.

Various courts are sorting through the issues of Business Interruption coverage due to COVID-19. Currently, the majority of court rulings have favored the insurance carriers in their denial of coverage claims.


This COVID-19 resource page will be updated frequently as new information comes to light. The purpose is to provide a framework to think through the risks to help each sports organization make an informed decision regarding cancellation and/or mitigation of risk. In addition, any potential coronavirus claims should be turned into the insurance carrier so that the claims department can make the coverage determination.




Coronavirus Resources

CDC Coronavirus Disease Situation Summary

CDC Coronavirus FAQs

CDC Coronavirus Travel Information

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

World Health Organization Coronavirus Disease Outbreak

4 Key Coronavirus Insurance Coverage Battlegrounds

US Olympic Paralympic Coronavirus Information for Team USA Athletes and Staff

Breaking Down Business Interruption: How Insurance Can and Cannot Mitigate Coronavirus Losses

Coronavirus in the Workplace – Compliance Considerations for Employers

Does Business Income Insurance Cover Coronavirus Shutdowns?

P/C Insurers Put a Price Tag on Uncovered Coronavirus Business Interruption Losses

Few COVID-19 Liability Lawsuits Filed So Far

How COVID-19 Court Lockdowns May Reduce Settlement Amounts

Coronavirus and the CGL

Will General Liability Insurance Respond to COVID-19 Claims

Businesses Fear Lawsuits from Sick Employees, Patrons After Reopening

How will youth sports return to play? USOPC offers first glimpse

Return to Play COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool: From Aspen Institute

AL Gov. Kay Ivey extends public health emergency, issues COVID-19 lawsuit protections

USA Softball Back To The Ballpark Recommendations

CDC Guidance in Parks and Recreation Facilities Including Organized Sports

Open TX Checklist For Youth Sports Operators

NCYS Return To Play Considerations

NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee Recommendations On Opening Up High School Athletics

United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Return To Play Guidelines

Little League Season Resumption Guide

How to Prove Sports Risk Management Training Delivered To Staff 

Innovative ideas for documentation and signatures

By now your sports organization has hopefully adopted a child abuse/molestationconcussion/brain injury, or other general risk management awareness program.  So how do you document delivery of these policies, procedures and training to your staff and their agreement to comply?

Such documentation could be essential in the event of a lawsuit when you must produce the evidence. For negligence-based lawsuits, your organization has a duty of general supervision, which requires the existence and delivery of these risk management programs. In addition, the federal Safe Sport Act requires proof of adoption/implementation of written policies and procedures and staff/minor training on how to prevent and report suspicions of child abuse.

Video Training vs Document Training

Many organizations prefer video training with an accompanying test at the end of the video. The test proves absorption of the material by the staff member.  A printable certificate of completion, which can be kept on file by the sports organization, is also typically included.  However, many sports organizations consider video training to be very slow moving and, in many cases, is no more than a talking head reading a written document. And the technology for the video training or hiring a vendor to deliver it can be quite costly. And if revisions are necessary, the entire video needs to be produced all over again. As a result, many organizations prefer to train by the delivery of a risk management document which is less expensive and provides for greater flexibility.

Electronic Signature as Part of Online Staff Registration

But how do you prove the risk management document was delivered to the staff member and he/she  reviewed it and agreed to comply with its terms? There are many high-tech and low-tech ways to do this. One high-tech way is to have an online registration platform whereby staff can receive links to the training documents and must click on an “I agree” electronic signature that they reviewed the risk management documents and will comply with their terms. In this case, be sure to specifically name the documents. Your webmaster will assist with this set up.

DocuSign and Alternatives

But not all sports organizations have access to an online registration platform of this type. Another alternative would to be use an e signature software such as DocuSign, PandaDocHelloSign, SignNow, etc. These platforms allow your sports organization to deliver these documents and to keep an electronic signature on file. But this can also be cumbersome for sports organizations that are not tech savvy and where staff members are not all using email.

Agreement On Paper Registration Form

If you don’t use electronic registration or an e-signature platform like those listed above, you could add a section to your paper staff registration form entitled Risk Management Compliance. This section should include a statement that reads “By my signature below, I agree that I have reviewed the following risk management documents that were distributed to me via email and/or posted on our website: (Insert names of risk management plans) and I will comply with their terms.”

Old-school Gang Signature Document

Another lower tech way to document training is to simply post the risk management plans on the sports association website and create a gang signature document. At the top is should state that the below signed staff members have reviewed the following risk management plans (insert names of plans) and agree to Cloud Data Storagecomply. The gang signature document is distributed, signed and dated at a meeting where all of the staff members are in attendance.

Document Retention of 16 Years

Regardless of the method of proving delivery of the training and staff member agreement to comply, evidence of such should be kept on file in a cloud-based system for at least 16 years in many cases. This is because in many states a 4-year-old child may wait until age 20 to file a lawsuit, which is a span of 16 years. See our article How to Easily Organize Sports Risk Management Documents in the Cloud.


Please take advantage of our fantastic sports risk management library. It includes important forms, documents, articles, videos, and risk management program templates on how to reduce the risk of injuries as well as your insurance premiums. And remember, the best risk management program is of little value if you can’t document that you delivered it.

John Sadler Featured As Sports Insurance Expert In Rough Notes


Sadler & Company, Inc. President, John Sadler was recently featured as a Sports Insurance Expert in Rough Notes magazine, Focus on Sports and Leisure.

“Coupled with the headline-grabbing scandals and the day-to-day exposures, the sport and leisure market could be in for some instability in light of a major event, be it high-profile or not. John M. Sadler, president of Sadler & Company, Inc., a Columbia, South Carolina-based agency, agrees that……” Read More



Managing Risks to Participants and Spectators at Special Events

Precautions can save lives and lawsuits

Community calendars are full of local organizations sponsoring tournaments, festivals, outdoor fundraisers, races, craft fairs and more. You’ll likely attend at least one yourself in any given season.

Those putting on such events are responsible for the safety and security of attendees, participants and vendors. That even includes, in some cases, their property. Weather is one risk that can’t be controlled, but Special event risk managementother potential risks can be mitigated.

Event organizers need to develop a risk management plan long before the event takes place. First-time planners should realize this is as important as planning the venue, advertising, catering, entertainment and other aspects of an event. There are everyday incident types that can occur, like a collapsed tent or injured runner. But terrorist attacks and active shooters at public venues in recent years drastically changed security protocols for public events.

A lot can go wrong

Every event requires preparation, of course. And each step offers opportunities to consider what could go wrong and how to prevent it. Below are some general steps that can be taken to lower the risk of injuries.

  • Law Enforcement and Fire Department: Police presence at the event, in parking lots and directing traffic improves security drastically. Consider requesting bomb-sniffing K-9 units. Notify the fire department well in advance of the event.
  • Registrant/Vendor Check-in: Require participants to provide a photo I.D. at registration to receive their packets/T-shirts/bibs. Vendors should also provide proof they are contracted to be at the event.
  • Baggage Check: Consider making a policy that guests can only bring in clear plastic bags. Otherwise, set a limit on the size and number of bags, totes, or backpacks attendees may carry in.
  • First Aid and Safety Station: Post clearly visible signs designating the location of the first-aid and customer relations stations. Arrange for an ambulance and EMTs to be present for the duration of the event. We recommend that a physician, athletic trainer and/or registered nurse be in attendance at any sporting event.
  • Volunteer Staff: Station your volunteers (wearing event T-shirts, hats or armbands) throughout the venue. This includes parking areas, to monitor the crowds, assist attendees, answer questions, and direct the flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic

Special Events Game Changers

We all know about game changers. Sometimes it’s a certain player, a momentum swing, the venue or fans. Other times it’s an event that makes us stop and rethink our views on one particular topic or another. The bombings at 2013 Boston Marathon qualify as a game changer.

It’s often a catastrophe that makes us re-evaluate our priorities. The Boston Bombings forced us to address our personal safety and the safety of participants at sporting events.

Increasing event security

In attempts to strengthen event security at its football games, the NFL banned spectators from bringing in purses, coolers, backpacks and other miscellany. Some view this as overkill. Others view it as the natural evolution in the continual ramp up of security measures in a volatile setting.

The tech revolution

The technology boom is also helping to strengthen event security. While closed-circuit television is still the Event securityindustry’s main method, the use of cellphones proves the most beneficial in enforcing safety regulations at sporting events. And not just among event staff. Many venues advertise a number for spectators to text or call if other patrons become unruly or are acting suspiciously.

And did you know there are apps available for reporting security issues? Fans may now anonymously submit complaints/observations using ISS 24/7 (or other) software. Game changer!

In addition to security hotlines, social media helps monitor patrons at sporting events. People love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many sports teams and event management companies use these tools to their advantage. They post on their accounts to spread the word of inclement weather, evacuation notices and other pertinent information.

Smartphones are good for more than just checking your Twitter feed. They are also important in documenting fan behavior at games, both good and bad.  In a world where anyone can be famous on the Internet, staying on your best behavior can mean the difference between YouTube fame and infamy.

Special Events May Require Special Coverage

Every event is different, and safety should be priority No. 1. The security measure you put in place depends on its size, venue, attendance and other factors. And while some will stretch your budget, you’re not saving anything by taking unnecessary risks.

There is one element of the planning stage that should never be overlooked. Determining whether your insurance program includes the coverage needed for a safe event for everyone involved. That includes the hosts, participants, volunteers, vendors and guests.

There are risks involved in hosting and managing special events that may require either added short-term or annual coverage. Check with your agent about the following areas that require particular attention as you plan your event.


Vendors can include caterers, tent and equipment rentals, concessions, security, and parking attendants. Sports risk managmentResearch your vendors thoroughly because poor service or a mishap on their part can spoil an entire event. Think of the potential consequences of a collapsed tent or food poisoning. It’s critical that each of your vendors provide you with a valid certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability with a limit of at least $1 million each occurrence. Require that they can add your organization as an additional insured on their policy.


It’s not unheard of for the actual venue of an event to be a factor that causes an accident or injury claim. Stages collapse, fire exits get blocked, and severe weather sometimes triggers the need for fast evacuations. The more knowledge you have about the number of people attending the event, the electrical equipment needed, and potential for severe weather, the better prepared you will be. For indoor events, make sure you know the emergency protocols of the building. This includes knowing where all the fire extinguishers, exits and stairwells are located. For outdoor events, be sure the terrain and any light/sound rigging are properly installed. Monitor the weather in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event – storms can pop up unexpectedly with disastrous results. Weather apps for smartphones alert you to severe weather watches and warnings.

Emergency Planning

Every event should have a unique emergency plan that all staff and volunteers receive and sign confirming they have read it. The emergency plan should include who has the authority to shut the event down or ask a vendor to vacate. Sudden storms, a shooter in the area, or a vendor with a lapsed permit are only a few examples of when someone may need to make an on-the-spot decision.  The emergency plan should also include a protocol for announcing a closing or changes in the event programming. It goes without saying that all event staff and volunteers should be familiar with the event emergency plan, to include medical Security at special eventsemergencies, lost children, crime and severe weather.


Security often tends to get overlooked because it doesn’t generate income. But consider security an investment that reduces your risk of liability, which is just as good or even better than income. These security tips help make for a much safer event for everyone involved.

  • Volunteers are a great resource. But don’t use them for security enforcement purposes, such as dealing with unruly people, enforcing parking or alcohol regulations, or providing first aid. It’s best to have trained medical and law enforcement professionals handling these duties.
  • Using teachers, senior/varsity athletes and other community leaders is also not a good idea when it comes to maintaining order in the crowd. These temporary-authority figures aren’t always respected by others when they’re out of their element.
  • If you pay for professional security, don’t scrimp. Going with the cheapest security service may not be your wisest decision. Are their employees simply hired staff or trained personnel? Ask what types of sports events and what size crowds they can handle. Ask for examples of situations they managed to control and get references.

Sadler offers Special Event insurance and one of our insurance experts would be happy to help you determine what coverage your event needs.

And further information we have several articles related to reducing the risk of liability and injuries at special events. We can also provide a quick quote for tournament insurance and non-sporting events or you can contact us or call at (800) 622-7370.

  • William Dyson. “Safe and Secure: How to Protect Your Event, Your Athletes and Your Spectators.” 07 Sept., 2018.
  • Kelly Martin,  “Safety and Security: Changing your game for the better,” Sports Destination Management. Sept./Oct. 2013.