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BAFA Insurance Review – Solutions To Current Issues

The infamous BAFA insurance gets inspected by an insurance expert involved in the sport.

We asked the community* what they’d like our Insurance Guru to investigate for us, and he did not disappoint. Ever wondered about amateur vs semi pro/pro status? Shitty Injury pay-outs? All genders, ages and versions of the game being covered by the same policy? Foreigners? If so, you’ve come to the right place.   

If you’ve never taken a look at it before, you can click the following link to the insurance section of the BAFA website here, scroll to the downloads section at the bottom and click on the policy “Insurance summary of cover 2018-2019”. We spoke to the insurance provider and were assured that the policy is up to date as of 2018/2019…

Which is good to hear as the PDF download that opens after clicking this is named “AMATEUR SWIMMING ASSOCIATION”. Link here.

Figure 1

I’m not entirely sure why this obvious clerical error hasn’t been spotted until now, but hey ho, I guess there are bigger fish to fry than a PDF title.

Figure 1. Howden Insurance Broker hard at work whilst sporting his new bicep bands and Speedflex helmet

Right let’s have it.

First up, if we dig into the actual wording of the policy, we can see that it’s incredibly unclear, with few specifics mentioned and vague language used.

I’ve spent time trying to figure out exactly who is covered by BAFA, as I know that the vast majority of Uni teams have insurance provided by their Student Unions, of which a cut is taken from each player’s subs to fund this. In the Uni game, a registration fee of £20 goes to BAFA for administrative costs, such as everything that Azolve does for us registration wise and whatever else BAFA spends our dough on – CEOs now apparently?

Despite various requests in Facebook comment sections directed towards the old BAFA board members, we’ve never been provided a breakdown of what our £35 BAFANL membership goes towards, leaving us guessing every time insurance costs are mentioned. It’s clear in the BAFA insurance policy that Uni sides have the option of being covered by BAFA (Figure 2), which unsurprisingly they avoid as the pay outs are fairly terrible. I’ve included these as appendices at the bottom of this article.  

Figure 2

£35 for BAFANL, £20 for BUCS. Could the £15 difference seen in BAFA’s reg fees just the insurance cost or does this money go to other things? It seems like a perfectly plausible amount, and let’s face it none of us are actually chasing up an insurance broker, pretending to want to insure an entire sport on behalf on an NGB for American Football in the UK, so there really isn’t any way we’d be privy to this information to suggest this fee is fair or not.

Interestingly Metlife insurance provider having been asked about said quote are able to cover us on a per player basis for £8 each, this is including contact for all genders and ages, as well as flag. The pay outs are all of equal value and in fact are better than the current package offered by Howden. If we assume that Howden and Metlife are charging the same (which is unlikely as Metlife offer better cover), we still have £7 per person that isn’t being accounted for, so where does this go? As consumers we should be free to opt in or out of this cover and arrange our own, firstly as the pay-outs are dreadful e.g. loss of work through injury sustained whilst playing, but more importantly, I don’t like the idea of the NGB profiting off poor cover that I can’t do anything about.

With little knowledge and a lot of questions I wanted answered, I reached out to an expert in the field, Ash-Lee Michael-James, who is currently the Sales Director of Weystone Financial Ltd (details at bottom of the article).    

Jordan: Before we get onto the serious stuff, what are these rumours about flag players being better protected than contact?

Ash-Lee: One of the more bizarre things by far in this policy, if a player was to be assaulted in a senior contact game and wanted to press charges, they would have no financial aid when hiring legal support through BAFA. However, flip this situation to a flag game and they’d be able to claim for this on Howden’s insurance to do so. I have no idea why this is, it really baffles me and the guy I spoke to at Howden had no idea either

J: How are Flag, Youth, Junior, Women’s and Senior leagues all blanketed into the same policy? Surely, they should be paying for different cover?

AL: In regard to an NGB looking for a blanket cover for everyone that falls under BAFA, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for the same level of cover to be provided to all members. If you were to be taking out a policy for individual players e.g. you go and decide to arrange your own cover for senior contact, then risk would be calculated differently due to several reasons including the likelihood of any claims.

J: Many Britballers claim that we’re restricted to amateur status in the UK because of our insurance policy. Is this correct?

AL: Having looked at the insurance doc, they mentioned that engaging in the sport as a profession is a “Principle Exclusion”. It’s correct that an out and out professional would need different cover to a lower level player due to numerous reasons, including the spiked loss of earning through career ending injury as well as more trivial things like celebrity status which will affect other earnings through marketing products etc, it’s far more complex than we have time to go into, and more importantly not relevant to the current state of our game as nobody is going to be “Professional” any time soon here.

J: So, does that include semi-pro? Who would be considered amateur, semi-pro and pro? Where are the lines drawn?

AL: Amateur is self-explanatory. Semi-pro will could be anybody receiving some kind of remuneration, which could include expenses such as rent, petrol, food and subs paid for (as we’re SUPPOSEDLY aligned with the same eligibility rules as NCAA…), however this varies from insurer to insurer, with some providing a clearly defined limit of earnings e.g. £5,000 in wages before you cross the line from semi-pro to professional. Other insurers would state that one is only a professional when earning more than they could via a normal day job, so we’re talking 10s of thousands per season. 

J: With that clearly defined, would having a mixture of the three effect an insurance policy? This issue doesn’t seem to exist in Europe, so why does our policy supposedly collapse as soon as somebody receives free subs and petrol money for playing?

AL: In our current state Amateur and semi-pro can definitely play together in harmony without any insurance hiccups. Having spoken to Howden they’ve OK’d it with the current policy, so there really isn’t anything stopping us other than BAFA’s rules about amateur players only. There are many world examples of how this can be done without having an effect on eligibility status, for example the USL PDL league (soccer) in America where college players are allowed to play alongside and against semi-professional and professional players without affecting their eligibility. They’re also allowed similar NCAA benefits such as housing and food.

J: Interesting stuff. What about people from different countries? Would a UK non-amateur be treated differently to an EU non-amateur? What about US?

AL: To be covered and eligible as a foreigner whether EU or not, the player must reside in the country for the majority of the year. Howden confirmed that this would include any international students looking to play senior who were around for 6 months or more, but any single term exchange students would not be eligible (under the insurance but according to Howden’s would still be allowed to play and not negate the policy), possibly explaining why BUCS teams use insurance provided by their SU.

J: So, with that understood, how would we go about changing this policy to include the likes of semi-pro guys? Would it take long?

AL: It would be very quick to change this over provided BAFA aren’t tied into a long-term deal and that BAFA don’t reject this change themselves. MetLife would be my choice as they understand the sport as well as the industry (MetLife stadium, home of the New York Jets/Giants), and they seem to fit the price range that wouldn’t hit the consumer too hard if the cover was to be more expensive than Howden’s, but will also work in tandem with a liability insurer because it seems BAFA have a high priority on the board having an extremely high level of liability insurance. The biggest hurdle I see here would lie with what BAFA actually wants and a clear outlay in what they currently have as we have no idea how much the current policy costs. The policy they buy into provides very little in the way of pay outs (for the players), but it does provide very large sums such as legal cover (seemingly for the “bigwigs”), of which up to £10 million could be claimed by committee members, so perhaps liability cases are more their concern?

J: Final non-insurance-based question. You’ve recently taken on the challenge of revitalising the Maidstone Pumas. How’s it going and how many wins are you going to get this season?

AL: The first thing about being a good coach is honesty. I’ve come in to help implement things the correct way and help facilitate a winning structure. I have only had 2 training sessions with the team as I’ve come into the season late, however I’m feeling confident as the players have bought in collectively made massive strides in the right direction. Coach Simon Mackerill appointed me as the offensive coordinator going into the tough Essex Spartans fixture and although we didn’t get the win, we were the first team to put the first points on them this season. In Our next game away against East Kent we came up just short due to a few mental errors and poor execution, however going into the 4th quarter down 19-22 is a massive step up from where this team has been traditionally and historically. Our remaining 2 games see us go north to respectfully tough Norwich and Ipswich teams, which I myself cannot even make so I can’t guarantee any wins, but that doesn’t matter. This season has been about implementing the right structure and coaching to make this a fundamentally sound football team first and then buildin from there, and I think we’ve made a solid start on that.

J: This is fantastic, thanks for your insights Ash, hopefully we can get the conversation between BAFA and yourself going to make some positive change in the game. Any final comments?

AL: No worries, I’m open to discuss things with them because a few insurers have been calling me about the BAFA league as they would like to offer potentially more comprehensive packages but potentially just as cost effective for a win-win situation.

What a guy!

Should you require any insurance advice, please don’t hesitate Ash who is currently the Sales Director of Weystone Financial Ltd on 01264 849179. Weystone specialise in life insurance, critical illness cover, home insurance and income protection, the latter of which I’d definitely recommend looking into if you’re at risk of missing work through injury e.g. most trades.

*Literally just me.

Pay-out details

Figure 3

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