Game, Set, Match: Wimbledon’s Decision To Purchase Pandemic Insurance Coverage Could Be A Winner


By: Bill Buechner

Among many other more serious impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many prominent sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, including the NCAA Tournament, the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and the French Open tennis tournament.  Also, all American professional sports leagues (except for the NFL) have suspended their seasons indefinitely or postponed the beginning of their seasons, including the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS.  Each of these scheduling changes has resulted in the loss or postponement of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. 

On April 1, Wimbledon announced the cancellation of its championship tennis tournament that was scheduled for June 29 to July 12 in London.  However, unlike the other events and leagues mentioned above, Wimbledon reportedly purchased event cancellation coverage that includes coverage for an event cancellation caused by an infectious disease.  (The British Open golf tournament, which has also been cancelled, also reportedly purchased pandemic insurance coverage).  The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which operates the Wimbledon championships, apparently purchased pandemic insurance coverage about 18 years ago after the SARS outbreak in 2002.  Neither the insurer nor the exact terms of the policy have been publicly disclosed, but several media reports indicate that Wimbledon paid an annual premium of approximately $2 million per year for comprehensive pandemic event cancellation coverage. 

The UK Daily Mail has reported that Wimbledon will receive approximately $141 million under its pandemic event cancellation policy.   Having paid approximately $34 million in premiums over the past 17 years, it appears that Wimbledon’s decision to purchase the infectious disease coverage will benefit Wimbledon to the tune of approximately $107 million.  Media reports estimate that Wimbledon has received approximately $310 million in revenues from the tournament in recent years. 

In contrast to Wimbledon, other events without similar insurance coverage, such as the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and the French Open, are scrambling to avoid or reduce massive losses by re-scheduling their events for the fall and hoping that the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by then and that fans and viewers will attend and watch these sporting events during a different time of year than normal.  Professional sports leagues without pandemic insurance coverage and hoping to limit or prevent substantial losses face uncertainty as to if or when they will be able to start their season (MLB and NFL) or if they will be able to complete their season, including playoffs (NBA, NHL, MLS). 

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