The claim game!

TEAMS will be banned from playing in a locally-based football league next season unless they have insurance cover in place, Times Sport can reveal.

A rule making it compulsory for clubs to take out both Public Liability Insurance and ‘player-to-player’ insurance in order to compete in the Ballymena and Provincial Intermediate and Juniors Leagues will be rubber-stamped at the league’s AGM at the end of this month.

League officials have secured a block arrangement with a sports insurance company which will enable teams and clubs to meet the necessary insurance criteria for a sum of around £200 per season.

The move is designed to prevent clubs or the league from facing huge payouts for compensation and legal fees in the event of any incident surrounding a match, and also to provide financial protection to players who may have to take time off work as a result of injury sustained while playing football.

Clubs will have to have both Public Liability insurance in respect of injury

to club members and even spectators, as well as damage to their property, and also ‘player-to-player’ insurance in respect of incidents which occur on the field of play, such as injuries resulting from tackles.

BPIL secretary Billy McIlroy (left) told Times Sport that across the league’s intermediate and three junior divisions last season, a total of SEVEN players sustained serious injuries, including broken legs and ankles.

“At least two of those could be deemed ‘freak’ accidents where players sustained their injuries without being in contact with any other player.

“Having proper insurance cover in place is the only way to go because we now live in a ‘claim’ society - if teams don’t have themselves covered and a claim goes to court, it comes down to who is running the team or running the league.

“The figure of £200 maybe sounds like a lot at first but it is only £4 per week over a year - as one of the clubs who had a player badly injured last year said, it would take a lot more than £200 to cover the person for their loss of earnings.

“We have discussed the issue of insurance at length at each of our last two league meetings and no-one has come out and said they are against it.

“Just last week, I sent off money to the insurance company from 30 of our teams who had paid the money up front.

“There are other areas in Northern Ireland where if you go to book a pitch, the first thing the owners of the pitch will ask is to see your Public Liability policy - no-one wants to leave themselves open to a claim.”

The issue has been brought into sharper focus in recent weeks after Times Sport revealed that former Ballymena United player Paul Brown had been awarded a £7,500 payout from the Showgrounds club and the Irish FA in respect of an arm injury he received back in September 2007, when he fell onto the stock car track at the Warden Street venue during a match.

“Some clubs might say they don’t want to pay that sort of money but they will have to find themselves another league to play in,” added Mr McIlroy.

See inside for coverage from the league’s annual dinner.