Return to Play – Legal Considerations

Return to Play – Legal Considerations

As we begin to find a new normal and economies undergo the re-opening process, the return of amateur sports is now emerging on the horizon.  This is a happy development that will have a profound positive impact on the physical and mental health of all participants.

As governing bodies grapple with safety protocols and scheduling, here are a few legal considerations that Boards of Directors, coaches, parents and athletes need to factor into their return to play plans:

  • Waiver of Liability

Now that COVID-19 is a known risk, it should be highly anticipated that insurers will not cover any losses or damages arising from transmission attributable to participation in amateur sports.

Amateur organizations ought to clearly communicate to all participants, including coaches, that they are participating at their own risk and that the organization, and their insurer, will assume no liability in the event a participant becomes infected with COVID-19 due to their participation in the sport or any associated activities sanctioned by the organization.

This should be done in the form of a comprehensive waiver of liability distributed by the organization and signed by the participant.

  • Disruption of the Season

There is a reasonable chance the sport season will be disrupted due to COVID-19.  There may be another wave causing an indefinite postponement.  A team or the participants may miss several games due to the need to self-isolate.

Amateur organizations, at the time of participant registration, will need to address this eventuality with their participants.  Will refunds, full or partial, be issued should the season be disrupted, postponed or cancelled?  Or, does the participant enter at their own risk and all registration fees are non-refundable?  If this is not addressed at the beginning, it will be an administrative headache later.

  • Training on the use of PPE

It should be anticipated that a condition of participation, as mandated by Provincial Health Authorities, will be the availability and use of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Coaches will have the task of ensuring that PPE is utilized and utilized properly by adding this to their list of duties.

Governing bodies will have the task of ensuring coaches are trained on the proper use and safe disposal of PPE.
This will need to occur prior to the return to play.  A failure to do so will create potential liability for the governing body.

As return to play plans and protocols are envisioned and drafted, additional legal concerns will emerge. The lawyers at Field Law are ready to assist your amateur sports organization with every stage of the return to play process.

Jason Harley

Jason Harley

Jason Harley’s legal career began serving as a police officer with the Edmonton Police Service for 17 years. Jason now utilizes his broad skill base to assist clients in the areas of Professional Regulation and Labour and Employment. As part of his practice, Jason represents clients before administrative tribunals. These include professional discipline tribunals and the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Jason works collaboratively with clients to manage issues such as professional misconduct or allegations of excessive discipline, wrongful dismissal, or human rights violations and takes a pragmatic, solution-orientated approach, to all aspects of the file from investigation to resolution.

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