The impact of Coronavirus on a long-standing, club organised triathlon
In these strange and uncertain times, there will be many athletes whose careful plans for the season are needing adjustment. Races are being cancelled, pools and gyms may not be available and travel is looking increasingly difficult.
Imagine being a race organiser, or a business that supplies goods and services to events. You are likely to have been working on the plans for your event(s) for many months and then these unprecedented times bring them all crashing down.
We spoke to Kim Moss, Chair of 7Oaks Tri Club (www.7oakstriclub.co.uk) who are the organisers of the 7Oaks Triathlon and have had to confirm the cancellation of their event on 19th April. Their race has been held since 1985 and is a popular early season event for many regular athletes as well as attracting a lot of novice participants. The 7Oaks experience will be one being repeated around the country.
Tri247: Kim you must be really disappointed to have to cancel your race that is just a month away?
KM: Obviously, yes. There are fewer club organised events than there used to be, and I imagine the reason for that is the sheer time and complexity that it takes to stage events like ours. The 7Oaks Race Director, Stephen Searby, and his team have been working on the event in one way or another since just after the 2019 race. Everyone involved in the race is an athlete themselves and their passion for providing a great experience for all the competitors shines through right down to the small details.
Tri247: How long before your announcement did you think this was a possibility?
KM: As a group, we had been looking at the potential implications for a few weeks when we saw the impact this situation was having not only on a global level but also at the grassroots of sport and within communities like ours. We like to feel a part of our community and know that this is affecting all sport in our area so we are not alone in facing these challenges. However, we took the view that if it was at all possible to run the event then we would. Events then accelerated at such a rapid pace and the BTF announcement confirmed we could not go ahead.
Tri247: I know you have told your competitors that they will get some sort of refund, but you don’t have to do this? Your terms and conditions are very clear. What factors have you taken into account in making this decision?
KM: We’ve only just confirmed the cancellation to the 500 competitors and we haven’t finalised our review of the financial impact. There will be a good refund that we believe is very fair – as we said in our communication, “we don’t want to just quote terms and conditions”. We have many competitors who have taken part over many years – our Evergreens who have completed 10 or more of our races is a loyal group and there are others who came to the sport recently who love our race. Then there are the first-time athletes for whom ours was their first multisport event.
However, we are also speaking with our suppliers and partners about what we need to do with them. My heart goes out to these businesses, as this conversation will be one of many they are having with different race organisers at the moment and it will be a significant impact on their business. Similarly, our sponsors have been very understanding – they are all local businesses who will have their own challenges.
Tri247: Have you had any reaction yet to the communication?
KM: Yes!! We have had some lovely messages from the competitors. Many have expressed their thanks to us, some commiserated with our position for example one said “I totally understand you will be as disappointed as racegoers and fully understand.” Several asked whether their refund could go to a charity which we will consider although we need to consider the logistics of asking 500 people for their choice and their opinion!
Among the kind words, we received this from another local tri club “We know how much goes into putting on these annual races and the benefit/promotion of the club that results. 7Oaks race has been a great start to the season for all of us over the years. We hope that the cancellation of this year’s race will allow for a more enthusiastic return next year and you can rest assured we will all do our best to attend and help promote to make it a great event for you all.”
Tri247: That must have cheered you up!
KM: Yes, it certainly did. The 7Oaks Race Director and his team have done an amazing job as always and I know there will be an extra impetus for the 2021 event to be better than ever. Now if we can just arrange the weather to be kind, we are all sorted!
Speaking to Kim reminded us that triathlon, like any sport, is driven at its core by volunteers who are in the main, athletes themselves. We at Tri247 see this week in, week out, but it is easy to assume events like these ‘just happen’. They don’t.
We know that races cost a lot of money to enter and not all athletes have significant disposable incomes. But, if you have entered an event that has to cancel, please pause before firing off the angry email to them because you haven’t had the refund you wanted. We know that events like 7Oaks Triathlon are the lifeblood of the sport that feed into the ‘bigger’ events. When you watch the IRONMAN World Championship or the Olympic Games, just remember that most of the athletes will have started at events like these which is why most Professional athletes have such a deep respect for the volunteers.