After more than a year of disruption for large-scale public events, spectators and fans are finding the confidence to be part of the action again. The challenge now is achieving effective risk management during an ongoing pandemic.

When 17 May arrived – marking the start of Step 3 in the government’s roadmap – prime minister Boris Johnson proudly declared “The turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate!”1, and organisers of large-scale events began cautiously filling up the 2021 calendar.

A pilot scheme ran in April and May to explore when and how large events with reduced social distancing could return in a safe way. Among the 58,000 people who took part in these events – ranging from the Brit Awards to the FA Cup final – there were just 15 cases of COVID-19 detected afterwards2.

Infection control however still remains priority, particularly as the final part of the roadmap is now delayed by at least four weeks due to a further rise of coronavirus cases in the UK.

Ensuring safety in numbers

As the UK remains in step 3 of the government’s roadmap, large outdoor seated venues (seated capacity of 16,000+) can house up to 10,000 spectators, or 25% of the seated capacity (whichever is lower)3. Pilot events exempt from these restrictions are set to continue, including the Wimbledon finals in front of full capacity crowds4, and semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley stadium set to host more than 60,000 fans (75% capacity) as announced by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport on 22 June.

However, these decisions are against a backdrop of rising cases of the new Delta variant of the virus and there must be a shared responsibility between spectators and event organisers to minimise risk.

While it may be difficult to get all attendees to comply with all rules and restrictions, it is imperative for businesses to be able to demonstrate they have adequate COVID-19 risk management protocols in place and are doing everything possible to keep people safe.

Defending liability claims

For organisers and operators of large-scale events there may be an increased risk of liability claims from the public, employees and contractors, as well as potentially the athletes or artists taking part in the event.

Gallagher recently commissioned research into the activity of claims management companies and noted that 70% of them have already had claims registered in relation to COVID-195.

There are currently no set rules to follow for coronavirus-related claims so they fall within the usual Personal Injury claim rules – meaning a claimant has three years in which to bring a claim. Claims could include direct claims (contracting COVID-19 at the venue and becoming seriously ill) or indirect claims such as a fall caused by slipping on spilt hand sanitiser. There is also a heighted risk of mental health claims from employees.

For businesses wishing to strengthen their defence against liability claims, we offer a Claims Defensibility Review. We can highlight the strengths and weaknesses in your present arrangements for defending an employers’ liability or public liability claim, and make recommendations for changes, if necessary, to reduce your risk exposure.

COVID-19 risk assessment – a continuous process

Another way to help defend your business against a potential COVID-19 related claim is to demonstrate a COVID-secure premises by way of effective implementation and validation of your COVID-19 risk assessment. This may be crucial in the defence of an insurance claim for personal injury or illness, or intervention by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or other regulatory authority.

Gallagher is currently offering a COVID-19 risk assessment implementation service where our Risk Management Solutions’ Health and Safety team will undertake a review covering your existing risk assessment and its implementation on site against existing legislation (which itself has been through several review processes). Having a competent third party oversight will provide evidence that your premises are COVID-secure, offering a suitable defence should there be an escalation of claims in the future.

3. /publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-phased-return-of-sport-and-recreation/elite-sport-return-to-competition-safe-return-of-spectators