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Risk Management in Sports Organisations

Jordon Martin explains how to implement risk management in sports organisations.

Are you a sports officer, director, or administrator interested in implementing a risk management program in a cost-efficient manner? If YES, then this training content is for you! In my experience as a performance coach, I have discovered that most risk management programs are way too complicated, long, and hard to implement. Most people fail to realise that focusing more on the bare essentials is the best approach for implementing an unbeatable program, i.e., one that causes the highest injury and liability minimisation.

The Simplified Sports Risk Management Theory

You are probably thinking to yourself: why would I need a risk management program when I can just buy a comprehensive insurance policy? And that is a terrible line of thinking because whereas an insurance policy may promise to take care of the claims, it surely does not feel well to witness someone sustain an avoidable injury under your care. If that happens and you face litigation, it puts your reputation in the balance, with the community and the media painting a different picture of you altogether.

But with an actionable risk management program, the jury will take it that you care. For insurance policies, you will preserve your loss record, giving the insurer no reason to refuse to renew your policy or increase the rates.

In a nutshell, effective risk management boils down to:

  1. Acquiring the most comprehensive insurance policy
  2. Transferring the risk of loss to a 3rd party
  3. Avoiding or mitigating high-risk non-essential activities that could cause severe injuries
  4. Taking proactive measures toward preventing injuries

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Risk Management Program

Before jumping into the types available, it is critical to discover the risk management plan that suits you. There are two main versions, basic and broader plans, that you can choose depending on any of the following factors:

  1. Your sports organisation’s size is based on the number of participants (a larger size needs a broader program).
  2. Whether you have your personalised facilities or premises, in that case, a broader program will serve you better.
  3. Your specific sport’s nature - if it is high-risk, eg, gymnastics or football, it may require additional staff training and equipment controls only found in broader programs.
  4. Are your staff resources readily available in terms of time commitment and officers with risk management specialisation?

The Nature of Sports Risk Management Programs

A risk management program is like a double-edged sword. If you do not have it and somebody gets injured under your care, their lawyer may argue that your negligence caused the injury. On the flip side, if you have it but fail to comply with one of the safety rules leading to an injury and a lawsuit, the plaintiff’s lawyer may also table a negligence case - and most likely succeed.

The plaintiff’s lawyer can form a case against you whether or not you have a written, formal risk management program. Luckily, you can take some precautions during the design process to avoid getting in trouble.

For starters, you want to avoid calling it a safety program. Why? Safety programs are usually designed to protect both participants and spectators, and it could cause trouble if you do not adhere to one of the safety rules or if doing so could have stopped the injury.

Instead, calling it a risk management program can cut you some slack. That is because risk management programs are usually designed to minimise sports organisations’ risk liability. Hence, if you do not stick to your program to the letter, despite having good intentions, you can argue that the plan was meant to protect your organisation against lawsuits and not the participants’ or spectators’ safety.

Critical Elements of a Sports Risk Management Program

Appointment of a Risk Management Officer (RMO)

The first step any sports organisation should take towards implementing a rock-solid risk management program is appointing an RMO. This is an officer tasked with implementing, reviewing, and taking corrective actions on risk management issues. The RMO should be answerable to the sports organisation board but should have the authority to make day-to-day decisions such as modifying or halting practising or playing depending on the hazards.

Acquiring Insurance Policies

Insurance is a must-have for sports facilities looking to implement a grade-A risk management program. And it should be as comprehensive as possible to include such policies as general liability, accident, crime, officers liability, directors, and equipment coverages. Larger sports organisations with paid employees, complex operations, and owned property (vehicles & buildings) may need additional covers like auto, property, and workers’ compensation.

Transferring Liability Contractually

A risk management program should also have an allocation where sports facilities contractually transfer the financial responsibility for paying for losses. This applies for:

  1. Waiver/Release. It is overly vital that all the sports facility participants sign a release and waiver of liability form to protect them against lawsuits when an injury occurs.
  2. Medical Consent & Emergency Information. Further, the participants should sign a medical consent and emergency information form for emergency medical attention cases. Be sure to keep a copy of the form for instant retrieval when need be.
  3. Image Release. You also need the participants to sign an image release form to protect your organisation against potential lawsuits whenever you use their (participants’) images or videos for commercials.
  4. Facility Lease/Permit Agreements. If you lease your sports facility to a 3rd party or vice versa, there should be a written, formal agreement specifying the lease terms.
  5. Hosting Outside Teams or Tournaments. In this case, you should have the visiting team sign a written agreement with an indemnification provision requiring them to bear the general liability.
  6. Product and Service Vendors. Suppose your facility subcontracts parts of the operations to vendors. In that case, there should be a signed agreement with an indemnification provision specifying the service terms and responsibility for injuries to outsiders and staff.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MARTIN, J. (2021) Risk Management in Sports Organisations [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Jordan Martin is an Exercise Physiology Graduate of Florida State University, with a focus on team training. Today he works with his kids in their leagues to help mold the next generation of athletes and coaches. Jordan can be found exercising, playing baseball, or spending time with his family on any given day.