Wednesday 14 April 2021 5:59 pm

Live events: UK to launch pilot insurance scheme as part of sport and culture reopening

The UK will launch a government-backed insurance scheme to support a string of live events that are due to go ahead in the coming weeks.

Around a dozen events, including the FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championship, have been given the green light to take place in April and May as part of a test of how major sporting fixtures, ceremonies and nightclub events could restart this summer.

As part of the Events Research Programme, ministers will unveil an insurance scheme underwritten by the government, capped at £300,000, to cover the cost of any cancellations due to the pandemic.

The plan is designed to reimburse the organisers of these trial events only if Covid-related cancellations are necessary and there is no plan to expand it more widely.

A government spokesperson said:

“This compensation policy is limited to the Events Research Programme only. 

“It is right to provide assurance to the organisers, given the risk they are taking in helping research to inform the reopening of the economy.

“We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity for live events and are exploring what further support we may provide. “

The lack of insurance has been a major barrier to restarting live events in the UK, with Covid-related cover effectively unavailable on the open market.

Organisers have been lobbying for the launch of a government-backed scheme, similar to the one put in place for the film and TV industry, to ensure events can go ahead.

They have warned that most festivals, concerts and sporting competitions will not be able to take place if there is no cover available.

While the launch of the pilot insurance scheme will be viewed as a positive sign for the industry, culture committee chair Julian Knight today hit out at the government for failing to establish a more comprehensive plan, saying the move was a “clear admission of market failure”.

“This indicates to me that they know it’s not working but there’s a roadblock in the Treasury because they do not want any of the risk,” he said during a crisis meeting of the events and insurance industries organised by the Let Live Thrive campaign.

Knight pointed the finger at Rishi Sunak, accusing the chancellor of personally obstructing the rollout of an insurance scheme for live events more widely.

‘Wave of cancellations’

Several major events, including music festivals Glastonbury and Download, have already been cancelled as a result of the pandemic and continued uncertainty about restrictions and insurance.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, warned that the “market failure” in insurance was “going to lead to a wave of cancellations in the weeks to come”.

He warned that this would be “devastating” for businesses and the supply chain, adding that it would also cause an additional burden on the taxpayer due to the need for ongoing support.

In a further broadside at the government, DCMS committee chair Knight issued a warning over Cop26, the UN climate change conference due to take place in the UK in November.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been pushing for the summit to go ahead in person, despite calls from some member countries for it to be delayed for the second year running.

But Knight said the conference could resemble a “post-war austerity” Cop26 even if it does go ahead due to the lack of wider support for the live events industry.

“The global green jamboree of Cop26, if it does go ahead at all, will have a certain feel about it that I don’t think those in No 10 will be happy about,” he said.