Insurance upgrades urged

GIPPSLAND football clubs face a higher price tag for personal injury insurance in 2013 following a significant increase to upgraded rates for quadriplegic and paraplegic cover.

Clubs across the region have been urged to upgrade their insurance to the highest level following Leongatha footballer Beau Vernon’s quadriplegic injury this season.

Vernon’s devastating injury highlighted flaws in the standard insurance scheme and clubs will be forced to fork out more for the extra cover next season.

While the basic cover for paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries has almost doubled to $250,000, upgrading to $500,000, $750,000 and $1 million premiums has become more expensive.

To attain the highest level of cover, clubs must pay an additional $610 per senior, reserve or under 19 side and $123 per junior team, which has increased from $169 for senior sides last season while the cover was unavailable for juniors.

JLT Insurance account executive Paul Mullarvey said the rise was largely a byproduct of claims history, and confirmed precedents from this season contributed to the ballooning prices.

“The footy community has asked for a particular product; we’ve gone to the market to get the best rate we can for that product… claims history makes up a part of that,” Mullarvey said.

He said the reasoning for the increase had been outlined in an outgoing document to football clubs across Australia, but would not reveal the details to The Express due to client confidentiality.

Despite the increase, Gippsland League general manager Chris Soumilas said it was important for clubs to take out the $1 million premium.

“We’ve got to make sure our players are covered,” Soumilas said.

“We’re looking at having all the clubs in our league go to the highest level so things like the Beau Vernon case are covered for a lot more.

“The Australian Football League hasn’t made it compulsory and we can’t make it compulsory but we want (our clubs) to take it to the highest level and we’re advising all our clubs that they get their players to have private health care and ambulance cover; that will be a directive from our board.”

The estimated cost for clubs to upgrade across the board would be about $1500 to $2000 each, according to Soumilas.

“It’s an extra cost but they just have to find it,” he said.

Soumilas said the community support for the Beau Vernon Fund had been fantastic to date, but it would not be necessary had this insurance been in place earlier.

North Gippsland Football Netball League general manager Gordon Bayley said clubs in their league would be consulted on Wednesday night at the annual meeting about the insurance issue, and he would encourage upgrades.

“We’ll certainly be pushing for clubs to take the highest cover that they can afford to take and we’ll be asking clubs to look at increasing their player memberships to try to (reach) the highest cover,” he said.

“It’s critically important for the welfare of their players.”

Mid Gippsland Football Netball League outgoing president Len Scurrah said insurance was a priority, and last season’s initiative to upgrade clubs to platinum insurance if they took out gold cover would continue in 2013 under new president Gary Matthews, who was elected at last week’s annual meeting.

The Gippsland League will hold its AGM tonight where four board positions are up for election. A new chairman will be elected after Brian McKenzie stepped down.