UK music festivals and other live events are to be protected by a government-backed insurance scheme if they have to cancel because of Covid.
It will begin next month with a £750m budget to cover cancellation costs if events are legally unable to happen due to government Covid restrictions.
The live events industry, which has repeatedly called for such a plan, broadly welcomed the announcement.
More than half of all music festivals have been cancelled this summer.
And several events, including the Boomtown and Womad festivals, have cited an inability to obtain cancellation insurance as a factor in their decision.
The new scheme will see insurance companies provide cover for live events, with the government agreeing to act as a reinsurer – guaranteeing that any pay-outs will be funded.
Julian Knight MP, who chairs the House of Commons culture select committee, said: “Though it is a shame that it has come too late for some this summer, this scheme will provide the confidence the sector needs to plan and invest in future events.”
Promoter Live Nation UK called it a “vital intervention” that would give the sector “certainty”.
However, there are concerns that it will just pay out if events are banned by another lockdown. The Musicians Union said “the major problem” with the scheme is that it does not cover events that would become uneconomical if social distancing came back into force.
The Association of Independent Festivals welcomed the scheme, but said it doesn’t “cover a festival needing to reduce capacity or cancel due to social distancing restrictions being reintroduced”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the lack of “the right kind” of insurance had proved “a problem” for the UK’s live events industry.
“As the economy reopens I want to do everything I can to help events providers and small businesses plan with confidence right through to next year,” he said.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden called it “an important next step” for the live events sector, and said it would give organisers “the confidence they need to plan for a brighter future”.
The development comes after the government’s £1.8bn Culture Recovery Fund was set up to provide grants for arts organisations and heritage sites affected by the pandemic.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, head of trade body UK Music, said: “We are extremely grateful to government for listening to the calls of the sector and delivering a solution to the market failure in the insurance industry.”
However, Labour said the funding was a “bare minimum” and promoters would still be taking risks by staging events.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens described the scheme as “a solution that doesn’t address the problem”.
The government also published endorsements from the Events Industry Alliance, the Meetings Industry Association and the organisers of Southampton International Boat Show.
Events companies will be able to purchase the cover from next month, with the scheme set to run until September 2022.
But the events industry is not the only sector currently calling for more government support.
The travel industry has urged the Treasury to extend the furlough support scheme to protect jobs.
‘Jobs at stake’
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, said despite the latest changes to the UK’s traffic light system it was one of the “few sectors that cannot reopen properly”.
“We’ve now had two summers of precious little revenue and we’re at the limit of what we can borrow,” he said. “Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake and without furlough it will be very tough.”
The government said it was providing an “unprecedented package” of support to protect jobs and businesses, and the airlines sector would have received about £7bn by the end of September.
On Thursday 30,215 new Covid cases were reported across the UK, along with a further 86 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.