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The Sport Information Resource Centre

Hello all media contacts;

Tennis facilities fear opening due to lack of protection from possible Covid-19 lawsuits. 

On May 14 Premier Doug Ford announced that people could return to play tennis, golf and a few other sports as early as May 19 as long as it was safe to do so. Other than the provincially mandated physical distancing guidelines that had previously been released, no specific requirements and recommendations particular to the sport were outlined by the province.

The swiftness of the announcement and the lack of clear direction caught tennis clubs and municipalities by surprise. The City of Toronto, for one, had not even issued permits to community clubs and had not developed specific safety protocol for the tennis clubs and public access facilities on municipal properties across the city.  

Organizations like the United States Tennis Association, Tennis Australia, Tennis Canada and the OTA had put together recommendations with respect to safety for facilities but none of these had been given the seal of approval from any municipal health departments in Ontario. In spite of this, cities like Toronto took some of these recommendations and attached them to the permits as conditions for a clubs’ opening. Interestingly, the conditions and responsibilities for organized tennis facilities were more stringent than the public access courts that are run by the city. Conversely, in other municipalities, the only guidelines put in place were the general directives of the province.  

But there was a an even bigger problem – liability insurance. 

Many OTA-member clubs take out group insurance policies to indemnify the clubs and their volunteer officers and board members in the event of damage to property and personal injury/defamation etc. Larger clubs and academies generally insure themselves independently.  

While all the policies cover a wide range of scenarios including slip and fall accidents, property damage and theft, etc., it is highly unlikely that any of these policies include protection for world-wide pathogens such as Covid-19. Very few insurance companies include provisions like this, especially in group policies like the one offered by the OTA and most don’t even offer them at all.

Some clubs across the province were taken by surprise that Covid-19 coverage was not included in their policies. They have been faced with a very difficult decision. All the summer clubs are ready to open – they have put their safety protocol in place and were planning the summer’s activities. While some clubs have decided to open, many clubs are considering not opening at all, fearing that their club and its directors would be liable for any legal costs and settlements that might result if they were sued by anyone claiming to have contracted Covid-19 at their facility.

This lack of coverage threatens not only tennis clubs, but any not-for-profit or volunteer-run sports or cultural organization and their boards of directors. The consequences of some, or all, of these organizations not opening over a fear of being sued will not be good. Jobs will be lost. There will be no camps for kids. People will not be able to enjoy their favourite sport or pastime. Even worse, if they open and are forced to defend such lawsuits, the consequences could be dire; club bankruptcies and personal financial ruin for board directors and officers are possibilities. That is a lot to ask of a group of volunteers under extreme pressure from their members to open NOW.

OTA President and CEO Jim Boyce would be pleased to avail himself to discuss this topic on air, or with any interested print and on-line publication.

To request an interview with Jim Boyce, contact Peter Malcomson, OTA Marketing Manager (416) 358-9580c 

About the Ontario Tennis AssociationFounded in 1890, the OTA is a non-profit, provincial sport association for tennis in Ontario. It is the largest provincial sport association in Canada, boasting 220 member clubs and encompassing 55,000 adult and junior tennis players. The OTA encourages participation in the sport of tennis and provides a structure of services which will assist players to reach a level of competence consistent with their personal goals and abilities. The OTA sanctions and operates the Junior, Senior and Open Provincial Championships and is located at the Rexall Centre, home of the Rogers Cup and Tennis Canada. For more information on the OTA, please visit our Web site at: