‘It’s a disaster to be honest with you’ – How rising insurance costs are threatening League of Ireland clubs

Rising public liability insurance premiums are threatening the viability of League of Ireland football clubs.

Although clubs are required to cover their players, it’s rising public liability insurance premiums that are driving up costs for clubs.

Bohemians have seen their insurance costs rise from €26,500 to €55,500 over a three-year period from 2016 to 2018 – an increase of 110 per cent. For 2019, the club anticipates it will pay around €77,000.

Former Bohs finance director Tomás McElhinney said: “EU-wide quite a few insurance companies stopped insuring soccer teams and because they pulled out, it meant that we had to go to a more expensive company.”

McElhinney says so-called “compo culture” is another reason behind the rise, but he says claims against the club are a rare occurrence.

“I think there was one case that happened during a match day, but there were another two cases that didn’t happen on a match day,” McElhinney said.

Rising public liability costs aren’t just affecting football clubs. There have been constant reports in the media of businesses who are under threat of closure with the rising cost of insurance premiums.

Sligo Rovers treasurer, David Rowe, says they have seen a four-fold increase in their premium from €15,000 in 2015, to €60,000 last year after two significant claims against them four years ago.

Sligo Rovers were quoted €84,000 to be covered during 2019.

“Awards in Ireland are four-times what they are in most other countries, so in Ireland if somebody has an accident – or even if they don’t – people are trying to get money. League of Ireland clubs are not immune from that,” Rowe said.

According to Rowe, Sligo Rovers had to prove they have had no other claims since 2015 and they also appointed a structural engineer to their board in order to reduce their initial €84,000 quote to €58,000 this year.

“Sligo Rovers are a big community and voluntary fundraising club. Our budget is over €1m and we raise about 40pc of that from a very generous and supportive local community through various fundraisers and initiatives,” he said.

“We sell a lot of €10 tickets that make up about a third of our budget, so we don’t carry the €60,000 or €80,000 premium easily. It’s a disaster to be honest with you,” Rowe admitted.

Another club in the League, who asked not to be named, has also expressed concerns about rising public liability insurance costs. This club encountered issues last year when the FAI suddenly advised them that their cover, which was fine in 2016 and 2017, was not suitable in 2018.

The FAI contacted the club’s insurance provider to make amendments to their policy and this increased their costs from €7,000 to €14,000 in 2018. For the 2019 season, the club broke ranks from the collective FAI-brokered policy and arranged their own cover, which has reduced their insurance costs by 35pc.

Journalist Ryan Clarke