Coronavirus and Sports Facilities: Risk Management in Uncertain Times

Youth sports and risk management

2020 has been a difficult year for all, and definitely an extraordinary one for facility operators. It has been a year of inactivity and fear for many in the industry. The uncertainty in our industry mirrors that in the world at large. Throughout it all, The Sports Facilities Companies are working to make it a year of resurgence and recovery.

In the space between inactivity and recovery, there has been a great deal of concern about not only the safety of staff and guests but also many questions about potential liability. The uncharted territory of the Coronavirus, and the nationwide response to it, has produced a myriad of questions about protecting your facility in the event that someone contracts the Coronavirus after visiting your site.

In this article, we are tackling a few sports facility liability questions as they relate to the Coronavirus.

How should sports facilities manage their risks of liability?

The best advice for a facility to reduce its exposure to claims related to Coronavirus is to be proactive but not overreactive. Making sweeping and permanent changes and adjustments in response to current COVID restrictions and sentiments may seem like the best thing to do, but as information changes daily and we learn more about COVID, making major investments in time and financial resources can be risky. In some cases, facilities have invested in scanning equipment or made permanent changes to the design of their space for social distancing only to find that these actions weren’t fully necessary or can have negative effects on their profitability.

Instead of making permanent changes, simply respond with reasonable measures, following state and local mandates and working closely with your local board of health representatives. They will be your best guide for how to proceed in protecting your facility.

What can sports facilities do to protect themselves?

First and foremost, sports facility operators should adhere to all state and local mandates in regard to preparing and maintaining a safe environment for guests and athletes. It’s also critical to work with the board of health in your city. They will have the best perspective of the needs of your community and will likely be tracking the spread of the virus locally. If someone does contract the virus after visiting your venue, it’s important to contact your local health board so that they may perform contact tracing. Additional tips include:

Encouraging visitors to take responsibility for their own safety and health: Additionally, sports facilities must know the difference between creating a safe environment and ensuring safety. While you can clean all surfaces in your venue and put procedures in place that encourage social distancing, you can’t control the choices that people make once they arrive at the facility. It’s up to attendees to adhere to the policies and procedures that you’ve put in place.

Setting your own standard of care and then follow it: Safety starts with you and your staff. Establish a plan for safe operations in your facility and maintain and monitor it, making adjustments as needed.

Can a sports facility be held liable if a guest or employee contracts the Coronavirus after spending time in your sports venue?

Claims are possible, but a cascade of claims is unlikely for several reasons. First, although this is the seventh pandemic in the past century in the United States, there is no significant body of existing case law to support liability for infectious diseases. Claims are possible but it would take some time to develop a new area of the law. Second, the Coronavirus health threat has been the most impactful to the elderly and those with underlying conditions. In these cases, causation is not as easy to prove as once thought. Additionally, it takes 2-14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear, and most victims at a sports facility are likely very active, making contract tracing difficult.

It’s a challenging time for sports facilities throughout the country and the SF Companies has developed tools such as our Rebound and Recovery services to guide venues through this time and help them come out stronger on the other side. Ready to learn more, contact us today at 727-474-3845.