Sports and leisure activities are one of the most ubiquitous pass times the world over. Whether you participate, or just watch, virtually no one is far away from some form of sporting activity. It’s why sports, as a generic term, has become a huge global business. For example, what are the most watched TV presentations? — The Olympics and the Football (Soccer) World Cup. Formula One auto racing is third.
Where there’s sports, there’s money, and where there’s money, people seek to protect it, and that protection frequently means insurance coverage. Surprisingly, agents, brokers, insurers and reinsurers who are wholly dedicated to covering sports aren’t that common. An exception is the aptly named insurer Sportscover, which also manages Lloyd’s syndicate 3334.
In many ways, Sportscover is a traditional Lloyd’s syndicate — small, specialized, highly skilled and able to move swiftly to take advantage of market opportunities. It is the kind of syndicate that once typified the Lloyd’s environment.
The company was founded 25 years ago in Australia, one of the most sports obsessed countries in the world. Despite its medium-sized population, just under 22 million, its teams and its people are forces to be reckoned with on the world’s sporting stage. It’s finished in the top six countries in the medals table in the last three Olympic Games.
That same sporting determination perhaps lies behind Sportscover’s success. It has grown from a small Australian sports insurer to also become a specialist Lloyd’s syndicate, writing business in 15 countries around the globe.
Peter Nash, Sportscover’s founder and current group chairman, recognized a need that wasn’t being satisfied by mainstream insurers. He felt sports associations and clubs were getting a raw deal from their insurers, who were offering standard commercial policies for risks that required more specific solutions. “I was told by a then very senior person in the Australian insurance market that setting up a specialist agency to provide sports insurance wouldn’t work,” Nash said in an e-mail to Insurance Journal. “Having just celebrated our 25th anniversary, which includes the last five years with our own Lloyd’s syndicate, I think I can safely say he was wrong.”
Sportscover started life as a specialist underwriting agency in Melbourne. It developed its own suite of products covering player accident, liability, sports property and contingency risks with wordings that were tailor-made for sports clubs and associations, sporting participants, coaches and venues.
It grew to become the largest insurer of sports risks in Australia and a respected partner to many of the national and State sports associations. In 2000 the company decided to expand its success to the UK. It opened an office in London to write UK sports business.
Nash, who was the original Active underwriter for Lloyd’s syndicate 3334 when it was first established in 2006, had long held the vision that Sportscover would become part of the Lloyd’s community so that its products could be distributed to many of the countries, currently around 70, in which Lloyd’s underwriters are licensed insurers. Lloyd’s also does business in over 200 countries.
The Sportscover syndicate was initially managed by a third party managing agent until Sportscover Underwriting Limited was authorized by the UK Financial Services Authority and Lloyd’s to manage the affairs of the Sportscover syndicate in 2008.
“Setting up our own Lloyd’s managing agent was the key to us being able to control our own destiny and manage our growth into new countries and products,” said Nash.
The CEO of Sportscover Underwriting is Matthew Riley. He has been at Sportscover since 2007 and has overseen a rise in the syndicate’s capacity from £15 million [US$23.5 million] to a current capacity of £35 million [US$55 million] which is projected to increase to £45 million [US$71 million] next year.
Sportscover branched out from only covering sports into the leisure business some time ago. It now covers risks such as adventure centers, special events, health and fitness establishments, amusement centers, visitor attractions and zoos.
Riley expects that Sportscover will continue its growth in the products and markets over the coming years.
“The increase in capacity of the syndicate has been entirely in line with our original projections,” he said. “Our growth has been controlled and sustainable and will continue in line with our plans. We have more recently added a number of new, highly talented and experienced underwriters to develop and expand our product lines.”
Those new products include travel, which has been overseen by Murray Anderson, and bloodstock, for which lead underwriter Robin Blunt was recruited from Brit Insurance. Simon Lyons was appointed to focus on expanding Sportscover’s event contingency book, which has grown considerably since his arrival last year, including a significant book of U.S. event business.
“We only enter new business areas where we have conducted enormous amounts of research and where we can get high quality underwriters who know what they are doing,” Riley said. “That is the strategy we have used to this point and that is not about to change.”
From a geographical perspective, Sportscover has taken advantage of Lloyd’s reinsurance license in China, writing business through Lloyd’s Reinsurance Co. China Limited since it was established in 2007. It is also one of only four managing agents that have signed up to the new Lloyd’s Insurance China Co., so that it can initially write sports contingency business on a direct basis.
Chris Nash and Murray Anderson are the current joint Active underwriters for the syndicate. Anderson concentrates on Europe, North America and South Africa while Nash is responsible for business in other parts of the world. “With the notable exception of Australia, our current main markets are all in Europe and North America,” Nash said. “However, the opportunities for us to grow in Asia are enormous … China is immensely exciting, and our business there is growing rapidly, as are a number of other countries in the region.”