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Top-level sportsmen and women: policyholders almost like the rest of us

Professional sportsmen and women are at risk of serious injury at any time, which at best can prevent them from exercising their profession for a period of time or, at worst, end their career prematurely. These situations are not covered by conventional complementary health insurance or personal injury protection insurance, so how do they insure themselves against this risk? We turn the spotlight on football and rugby, the two most popular team sports in France.

Top-level sportsmen and women: policyholders almost like the rest of us

The club compensation scheme

Like all companies, professional clubs pay into the Social Security occupational accident and illness prevention and compensation scheme for their players. Players are therefore covered for their medical expenses. They also receive the statutory benefit payable to all salaried employees who find themselves off work following an occupational accident.

But the maximum amounts paid by the Social security are much lower than the salaries paid to players. On average in 2016 these salaries amounted to about €45,000 for Division 1 players, €12,000 in Division 2 and €15,300 for players in the rugby Top 14. Hence a considerable shortfall most players.

As a result, the charters of both sports impose certain obligations on clubs:

  • In football: clubs have a statutory obligation to insure their players against loss of earnings for a minimum of 90 days following an injury that prevents them from playing. In Germany, the country in Europe where players are the least well protected, this period is 42 days, whereas Spanish clubs maintain players' full salaries throughout the period when they are unavailable to play.
  • In rugby: clubs have to take out complementary personal risk insurance for all their players. They pay the players' full salary for the first 28 days they are off work, and then from the 29th day, the personal risk policy takes over. It covers 80% of the player's gross salary, up to a limit of 6 times the Social Security maximum. There is no limit on the time the benefit is paid.

Since 1st September, Crédit Agricole Assurances and SMACL Assurances have become joint insurers of the French Judo Federation (FFJ) and its 600,000 licence holders. An insurance offer specially for Judo Clubs has been made available to the Regional banks. The new offering includes extra cover (vehicles, premises and equipment) available to all 5,700 affiliated clubs all over France. 

Players' individual insurance

To guarantee their salary after the three months and avoid loss of earnings, football players take out individual cover. Among France's 1,100 professional players, about 90% are insured. 

The latter also offers policies to cover players' risk of losing their licence. If an accident or serious injury prevents a player from continuing his career, he will receive a lump sum that depends on his age and salary. It should be noted that the clubs are under no obligation in this case and that the disability rates that are recognised for football injuries (below 10%) do not give rise to any compensation by the Social Security.

Given the huge disparities in salary between a player at a club like the PSG and one at a smaller club, premiums vary from a few thousand Euros to over €200,000 a year.

In view of the increase in earnings and the growing number of injuries, rugby players now also have every reason to take out individual insurance to cover long-term injuries and loss of their licence.

In the event of a total and permanent inability to play rugby for medical reasons, under the collective personal risk policy they receive an allowance that can be converted into a lump sum payout, the amount of which depends on the player's age and earnings. But this is a long way from being enough to guarantee the player a secure future. The maximum lump sum payable is €250,000 for players aged under 25 and €42,500 for players aged between 33 and 34, the age limit for cover.

With ever-longer seasons and the increasing physical strain on players, it is in their interests to safeguard against every eventuality. Every year, on average, about ten rugby players and between 5 and 10 footballers have to give up their careers due to injury. 

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