July 31, 2021

Need for Sports Insurance in Sports Law

Playing any kind of sports is not every man’s cup of tea. It takes hard-work, determination and dedication when it comes to actual playing of that particular sport. In India we have sports persons who play various kinds of sports and represent our country India in international level, and also there are so many sports persons who earn laurels for our country and we just feel proud that they belong from our country. But what will happen if all these sports persons suffer temporary or permanent disablement i.e. what if tomorrow in a cricket matches Virat Kohli or any of our sports person suffers a disablement which would take years to recover. Has anyone given a thought? The answer is a big “No”. There the concept of sports insurance comes into picture. A lot of developments have been seen in India’s insurance sector over the last decade. From enhanced health insurance policies to zero depreciation policy in car insurance and so on and so forth. However, what is in store for India’s sports players who are playing various types of sports? For a common man a normal health insurance would suffice but what about sports person who are insured under this policy. Is this particular policy appropriate for those whose life is at stake at every training and every match they play? The answer is negative. Hence the researcher would like to discuss the need for sports insurance or career ending insurance under sports law in this particular article.

1. Background and Significance

For a professional sports star the fear of injury is never far from mind. Every footballer knows that a damaged knee can end a career, for a tennis player a shoulder problem may mean the same, while on the rugby field the stakes can be even higher. As a professional, sportsperson push their body to the absolute limit to be the best, and should the worst happen, it is important that both sportsperson and his family are protected.

Injuries in sport happen regularly: every day at training, every game, and most of the time we have no idea that they are coming. They can range from twisting a limb badly on the field, to a player collapsing with a heart attack on the pitch.

Career ending injury is an unfortunate fact of life, and the fact of no longer being able to play due to this pain is often compounded by a stark financial reality. The very concept of career ending insurance is prevalent in other countries except India. In India, it is known by the name “Sports Insurance”.

2. Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are injuries normally occur in athletic activities or exercising. The leading cause of death in sports-related injuries which is rarest is brain injuries. The two main systems affected are the nervous and vascular system when injured. It may commonly occur also due to application of force which is greater than the body part structurally can withstand.

Injuries can also occur due to overtraining, lack of conditioning, and improper technique. Failure to warm up also increases the risk of sports injuries. Bruises, strains, sprains, tears, and broken bones can result from sports injuries. Soft tissues like muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and bursae may be affected. Traumatic brain injury is another potential type of sports injury.

3. Types of Sports Injuries[1]

  • Ankle sprain
  • Groin Pull
  • Hamstring strain
  • Shin splints
  • Knee injury: ACL tear
  • Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)
  • Dislocation of joints

4. Factors Which Determine Sports Injury

  • The level of play (whether it be professional or amateur)
  • The nature of the act (how severe the injury is)
  • The degree of force used;
  • The extent of injury (by implication the more serious the injury the more likely the criminal law will step in); and
  • The state of mind of the inflicting player (in essence the level of intention that can be shown).

5. Sports Violence

Sports violence is an act of causing physical harm to the opponent, which is against the competitive spirit, fair play and the rules of sport. Over the past few decades, sports have become a highly sought after and financially lucrative career for many and as a result, ruthless competition amongst sports person is rife. Thus, with stiffer competition and higher stakes, sportsperson themselves want to win at any cost. It is seen that participation in sporting activities involves certain inherent and inevitable risks, hazards and physical stresses. These risks obviously vary from sport to sport and differ in nature, for example in a ball in sports such as in cricket, squash, golf, tennis. A hard cricket shot can also kill – whether it is hit by test, first class or club cricketer as seen in the case of an Indian cricketer Raman Lamba, who died after being hit in the head while fielding, at Dhaka Cricket Club or the case of Philip Hughes who was hit by a bouncer while playing for South Australia in a Sheffield shield match.

(i) Criminal Liability

There is still a significant amount of debate as to whether it is appropriate to invoke the criminal law jurisdiction as a regulatory mechanism where sports is concerned. Most sports involve some form of physical contact, especially in contact sports like boxing or rugby. In many cases, such physical contact would be considered an offence in criminal law of any civilised nation if it occurs outside the sporting arena. Punching an opponent in a boxing match and grappling in a wrestling bout is permissible, but the same action outside the game would definitely be considered as an assault punishable under the criminal law. Therefore, it needs to be understood as to why such a distinction exists. This distinction is because of the concept of ‘consent’. For example, when a boxer steps into the ring, physical contact is expected due to the nature of the sport. By entering the playing arena, the player accepts a level of violence that is not acceptable outside the ring. Internal disciplinary bodies of various sports deal with cases where violence exceeds the accepted norms in the playing arena.

(ii) Civil Liability

Civil liability gives a person rights to obtain redressal from another person, i.e. the ability to sue for damages or personal injury. For an award of damages, the injured party has to suffer an actual loss. The scope of civil liability is much wider than criminal liability as civil law does not require mens rea i.e., an intention to cause harm. Civil liability is founded in law of torts, whereby due to negligent act and/or on failing to take reasonable care, the aggrieved party is entitled to compensation. If a sportsperson can show that another participant intentionally inflicted injury such conduct may amount to criminal offence. The injured party might also be able to seek compensation for injury and consequential losses for assault in civil law. Where injury is not intentional, the injured party has to show that the other participant was negligent. Negligence has been described as a conduct that falls below the standard regarded as normal or desirable. The test whether the aggrieved party has acted unreasonably in the particular circumstance. The doctrine of negligence as envisaged by the courts across the world and by the Supreme Court of India is applicable to all sports played in India. Though the instances of reckless acts of negligence by a sportsperson beyond the rules of the games to injure other participant are widely prevalent in India especially in local games of football and hockey, the concept of providing pecuniary damages for such conduct up to now has no precedent in India.

6. Legal Provisions Regarding Sports Injuries in Sports Law

The most obvious charges would be that of the breach of peace, grievous hurt, and homicide as potential offence which can occur in the field of sports. The simplest charge that can arise from misconduct in the field of sports is related to breach of peace.

a. Section 504 of Indian Penal Code: Intentional Insult with intent to provoke breach of peace –Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

provides that it is an offence to intentionally insult and provoke any person intending or knowing it could lead to a likely breach of public peace.

b. Section 351 of Indian Penal Code: Assault– Whoever makes any gesture, or any preparation intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present to apprehend that he who makes that gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force to that person, is said to commit an assault.

Explanation— Mere words do not amount to an assault. But the words which a person uses may give to his gestures or preparation such a meaning as may make those gestures or preparations amount to an assault.

In any match, whether international, national, domestic or local, there are numerous instances which would fall under the ambit of this section. The most glaring ones are the football matches.

c. Section 319 of Indian Penal Code: Hurt– Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt.

d. Section 321 of Indian Penal Code: Grievous Hurt-This section provides for a series of acts of causing hurt which are designated as ‘grievous’. These includes, permanent privation of the sight of either eye; permanent privation of hearing of either ear; privation of any member or joint; permanent disfiguration of any head or face; fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth; and any hurt which endangers life and which causes the sufferer to be in severe bodily pain for twenty days, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.

e. Section 322 of IPC: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt– provides for voluntarily causing grievous hurt with the intention to cause or with the knowledge that his act is likely to cause grievous hurt.

The law does not recognise consent as a defence to the infliction of grievous bodily harm. However, where the act of causing grievous hurt occurs during participation in sports, consent can be a defence to a charge of grievous hurt, provided that the injury-causing act was within the legitimate norms of that sport. A player can consent to any act which does not cause any bodily harm but under no circumstances can consent to the application of force that causes him any grievous hurt, or worse, with the intention to do so.

7. Sports Insurance – How It Works

Sports Insurance pays out a lump sum when any sports person gets injured and can no longer play that sport. This amount is tax free. The idea is the lump sum pays out an amount to give financial assistance to the sportsperson for the rest of their life. If a footballer has a five-year contract and gets insured and cannot play further, he is most likely lose 2-3 years’ worth of income from that contract. So, you can insure against this loss. If someone is young and has a big potential, you could look at insuring the loss of their contract plus potential future earnings. Below, are some real-life examples which highlights the dire need for a sports insurance.

1. No cover for aspiring boxers in India[2]

The Indian Boxing Federation is eager to grab a tailor-made insurance plan to safeguard players especially after the alteration of international rules pertaining to boxing. However, as on August 2013 insurance companies operating in India didn’t come up with a special cover for boxers. This sport is considered in the “high risk” category as the boxers are most likely to get injury.

The Boxing India has decided in September of 2015 to provide woman boxers who have won medals with the “Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna” with a view to encourage female boxers in the country. But such a small step does fall short to meet the actual need of thousands of aspiring boxers in the country. Instead of covering only medal-winners. Government should start providing insurance schemes from the grass root level. While boxers are finding it hard to get personal accident cover, other sports persons are absolutely unaware of the insurance plan that is available to safeguard their career.

2. Yuva Krida Sanjeevini

While Boxers are finding it hard to get personal accident cover, other sportspersons in India are absolutely unaware of the insurance plan that is available to safeguard their career. Let’s start with athletes. Not too long ago, High jumper KC Chandana met with a bizarre accident and had suffered multiple fractures in 2013. Chandana’s family and friends had to run from pillar to post to gather funds. This incident alone is enough to draw attention to the predicament of athletes in India that compete without insurance cover. The majority of leading athletes in India are fighting tricky circumstances. To add to their misery, most of them are not highly educated and not aware of the insurance schemes that are available for them for protection.

In 2011, the Karnataka State Government proclaimed an insurance scheme free of cost called “Yuva Krida Sanjeevini” to address the plight of sportspersons. But unfortunately, a fair share of state’s sportspersons was not covered by the scheme as of 2013.

3. Death of India’s first Olympic swimmer

On 15 October, 2017 Shamsher Khan, the country’s first swimmer who had participated in the 1956 Summer Olympics, died at his native village Repalle on Sunday. Mr. Khan, 92, died of heart attack, his eldest son Babu said. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Leader of the Opposition Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, and Principal Secretary L.V. Subramanyam condoled the death of Mr. Kahn. The funeral rites would be performed on Monday. Mr. Khan had enrolled himself in the Indian Army in 1949. He had taken part in various national swimming competitions. He won a place in the Indian Olympics contingent that had visited Australia in 1956. He, however, secured fourth place in the competition. He continued to serve in the Army till he retired in 1973. After retirement, he settled at Repalle. He lived a life of penury till his death. In July 2016, the Andhra Pradesh Government awarded him Rs. 25 lakh.

10. Companies Offering Sports Insurance

A. Indian Insurance Companies Offering Sports Insurance[3]: Sports Insurance may not be completely new to India. But like many other trend-setting examples IPL has once again proved to be trend-setter in Indian professional sports once. IPL has grown to become a better platform to provide business opportunities for Insurance companies in India. Two major players in the Indian Insurance Industry have been doing big business in the sport insurance sector in India, they are:

a. National Insurance Company Ltd.: has agreed to provide a record of Rs. 900 crores cover against any loss of advertisement revenue to Multi Screen Media Pvt Ltd. Cricket players gets covered, with Sachin Tendulkar being covered for Rs. 44.97 crores by National Insurance Co. Ltd.

b. Oriental Insurance Company: provides comprehensive cover available to amateur sportsmen covering their equipment effects, legal liability, personal accident risks. If desired the cover can also be made available in respect of the named members of the insured’s family residing with him.

B. Foreign Insurance Companies Offering Sports Insurance

1. Nationwide Mutual Insurance company

2. Bluefin Sport

3. Worldwide sports Insurance (WWSI)

4. O2 Sports Insurance

5. Westpoint Insurance

6. AON

7. Endsleigh

8. Gagliardi Insurance

9. Wilson Sports Insurance Services, LLC

10. ProSport Insurance and many more….

The above-mentioned insurance companies deal with Sports Insurance and their policies cover health, property, travel etc of all sportsman and sports organisations.

But the same is not the case in India. In India we do have sports law, but we do not have proper policy and authority which will look upon the health and liabilities of sports person. Further, there are only two insurance companies in India which provide sports insurance which is a small step to protect our sports persons in India.

12. Conclusion

Playing any type of sport at any level be it district, state, international requires one to remain fit and healthy for years. An insurance cover for sports persons related with various types of sports is therefore a must. Aside from the peace of mind of staying protected, an insurance policy will help players to get the benefit in time of crisis. Many a times, sportspersons come across injuries which would end their career or in some cases it leads to their death. Sadly, a few isolated moves don’t suffice to meet the needs of millions of sportspersons in India. It is high time that sports organizations should sit with underwriters of insurance companies and come up with customized insurance products to meet the unique needs of people engaged in varied sports. Hopefully, we will witness a flourish of insurance products designed for sports personalities in coming days. Cricket shouldn’t be the only sport in India with adequate insurance covers for its players.

The researcher would like to propose solutions regarding this topic:

1. To encourage more people of India to play sports and pursue their career in sports.

2. To provide sports education to the sports persons of which they are not aware.

3. To encourage more Insurance Companies for providing sports insurance.

4. There shall be a regulating authority which shall look for the welfare of sports persons.

5. There shall also be an advisory committee which shall advise the Central Government on behalf of all the sports organisations regarding the changes in sports law.



[2] Sudarsan Bose, Budding Sachins are well-covered in India, why not budding Baichungs, GIBIL.IN (May 8, 2020, 11.30 AM) https://www.gibl.in/blog/miscellaneous-insurance/budding-sachins-are-well-covered-in-india-why-not-budding-baichungs/

[3] Rajalingam, Sports Insurance catching up in India, SPORTSKEEDA, (May 9, 2020, 11.30 AM) https://www.sportskeeda.com/sports/sports-insurance-catching-up-in-india

Author Details: Nagbhushan Hanagandi (DES Shri Navalmal Firodia Law College, Pune)


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