How the Alliance is working to remove the fear of liability for landowners

Photo of Sport and Recreation Alliance policy officer Martin KeySport and Recreation Alliance, the umbrella body for sport and recreation in the UK, policy officer Martin Key talks about two new pieces of guidance that aim to eradicate the myth that landowners should be held liable for accidents related to events and activities held on their land.

Would you seek compensation if you got injured while out mountain biking? Me neither. But what if you were the landowner – would you allow people you didn’t know on to your land? What if they tried to sue you for an injury? Is it worth the hassle finding out?

These are all the types of questions that landowners need to ask themselves when they allow their land to be open to the public for sport or recreational events and activities.

In our report Red Card to Red Tape, we cited a fear of liability as a reason holding back more land being open to the public for sport and recreation. The only significant study in this area (Bennet and Crowe, 2008) found limited UK evidence to suggest that the fear of liability is a lesser influence in preventing access to that of perceptions of privacy and control. It also found that the actual level of liability risk is low.

Lord Hodgson found that perception is a bigger problem than reality in his publication Unshackling Good Neighbours. He cited the role of the media in warping public opinion by publicising cases out of context or not reporting the final judgement.

Challenging these perceptions is difficult, but inroads are being made by the current Government which is determined to end this 'health and safety culture’. The Insurance Liaison Group was created to help implement some of these recommendations and the Alliance was invited to be part of it too.

Led by Volunteering England, the group has produced a code of practice for volunteering that includes advice for people that are allowing their land to be used for events. The Local Government Association has also used the collective experiences of the group to produce guidance for local communities looking to celebrate the Jubilee and the Olympics.

Although lacking the detail required by many sports or recreational activities, both documents are part of the drip-feed of communications required to change the detrimental health and safety culture that we find ourselves in.

The Alliance is now working on providing more tailored guidance for clubs, participants and landowners, with the extra details necessary to provide clarity to all parties.

So in a nutshell, it would be great to get to a situation where fear of liability is not used as an excuse for preventing sport and recreation from happening.

If you would like some further evidence of a shift in legal opinion towards greater personal responsibility take a look at my guidance.

Read the Local Government Association's publication The Top tips for holding a public event in your community.

Read the Volunteering England code of practice.


To receive the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s free daily sports news summary, a round-up of the day’s most interesting and informative news articles on sport and recreation, including links to original sources, email