What if the Queen dies during your event? The unusual planning scenarios in the complex world of event risk

On first hearing it, the suggestion seems strange but the world of major events requires an unusual degree of foresight. Yes, event planners must take into account the ever-increasing risks associated with terrorism, but the insurance sector – especially for the large, televised sporting occasions – must also advise clients to consider what they might do if the Queen passes away during their event.

The scenario comes up in conversation with David Griffiths, Senior Associate at Miller Insurance Services LLP, who has 25 years’ experience in the sporting event insurance brokerage industry and can count events such as the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles among the major events he has worked on; he says that the death of the monarch, as unpalatable as the topic might sound, is a common area of discussion and that Miller, as specialist brokers and risk management advisors, often advise clients that a protocol should be written up detailing exactly what organisers might do in that unlikely but possible event.

“You have to have a protocol as to what you would do in that scenario so that any actions can be taken instantly,” he says.

“Every event is different but for larger UK based events over several days , you might expect some interruption to the event in this situation as a mark of respect. You don’t want to be dealing with those kinds of situations on the hoof, with people saying ‘somebody’s got to make a decision’. “You have to agree protocols because you can have a PR disaster with significant-sized events that are in the public eye.”

Moving onto the threat to events from terrorism, he says, “There’s no doubt that mainland Europe has taken the brunt of recent terrorist attacks, albeit we had the London attack a few weeks ago. There’s definitely concern over situations such as those that occurred in Paris, Nice, Berlin and Stockholm. Although there may be a perception that the UK and Scotland are seen as potentially safer destinations with regards to terrorism, Griffiths is quick to point out that the lone attacker terrorist events like the Westminster incident last month and in Paris recently could occur “anywhere”.

“On the positive side what insurers are looking at is tried and tested cities like Glasgow which has successfully held a major event such as the Commonwealth Games,” he adds. “That definitely gives a lot of confidence from a security and policing aspect, in that they know what they’re doing, they’re learning from the experience the whole time. When you go to a new and untried territory the intelligence that’s available is more limited.”

Overall, his experience includes massive sporting spectacles such as World Cups in several sports at home and abroad. Griffiths does say that he believes Glasgow is a city that is now well-rehearsed in the hosting of major events, having successfully delivered the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the World Gymnastics Championships in 2015. This gives insurers confidence in the ability of them to deliver next year’s first multi-sport European Championships – where more than 3,000 athletes will compete in aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, triathlon and a new team golf event

He advises event planners to always have a contingency in their budget to allow for unexpected costs. For example, with an increase in threat level, the police can insist on ‘beefing up’ the number of officers present, committing organisers to considerable additional cost in order to retain their licence to hold the event.

“All event managers need to allow a contingency in their budgets because it can be catastrophic for the event if they can’t afford to add the security they won’t be able to carry on. And there can be no messing around with that; if the police do not think the security is good enough they won’t allow it to go ahead.”

One of the chief concerns for organisers when dealing with insurance and risk at major events is to mitigate what losses might occur if the event was not to go ahead. Griffiths says he gets involved with clients at the stage where contracts are being signed by the rights holder, the organisation charged with its delivery and the venues where the event will take place.

He says he advises clients to look at their contracts carefully and to see where they might be able to share the risk so that the entire burden does not fall on them.

He adds: “From an insurance point of view, we’re looking at the spread of revenue so we can evaluate what the cost of losing any particular day of an event is – underwriters can then consider it from that perspective and ask questions such as what are the contracts saying with different revenue providers to them? How much will they lose if the event is cancelled? At the end of the day, the event organiser is our client and so we want to make sure they retain as little risk as possible themselves.”