By Jonny Long
Hundred have signed a petition demanding their money back after Vélo Birmingham said they wouldn't be refunding entry fees to 15,000 cyclists following the cancellation of their event due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement, organisers of the UK's second-biggest closed road sportive said refunds were "simply not going to be possible" as event cancellation insurance didn't cover pandemics. With tickets costing £40-£125, they said refunding the estimated total £1 million in entry fees would "not [be] something our business could absorb".
The event was planned for June and featured both 50 and 100-mile rides, with organisers recently announcing they would also be aligning with British Cycling for the 2020 National Road Championships.
Jack Ancrum, who has participated in several editions, tweeted his displeasure at the decision, saying: "I’ve got to say that’s a really poor showing. Very surprised if your current expenditure/loss at this stage is equivalent to your full entry price? I am a repeat competitor and will certainly never support you again because of this! Big mistake here! Poorly worded!"
A change.org petition demanding Vélo Birmingham refund entry fees has 500 signatures at the time of writing.
In a statement, Vélo Birmingham said: "It is with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of Vélo Birmingham & Midlands 2020. The event was due to take place on June 21st, at which time we are still likely to be significantly impacted by the current Coronavirus outbreak.
"HM Government are strongly advising against mass gatherings and non-essential travel and even if it is possible that the situation may have improved by June 21st (which seems far from certain), working restrictions and self-isolation recommendations mean that we are simply unable to complete the work necessary in the next few weeks to ensure that the event could proceed safely and with minimum support from and/or disruption to local emergency services, whose vital work is rightly focused on supporting public health needs through these exceptional circumstances.
"We have put our heart and soul into making this year’s event bigger and better than before and we know that you will share our huge disappointment at this news. We know how hard you have trained, how much you have supported our incredible charity partners and your own special causes, and how much you were looking forward to the big day.
"In terms of what happens next, as you will have seen, many other events are exploring postponement to a later date in 2020. Events that have managed to postpone so far are generally held in a much more confined area and controlled environment. With an event the scale of Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, rescheduling 100 miles of road closures across seven different local authorities, in this time of crisis and strain on public services, is simply not going to be possible. In these circumstances, many of you will now want to know what happens to your entry fee.
"In common with virtually every other event organiser and business in the UK, whilst we carry extensive business disruption and event cancellation insurance, none of these policies cover the unprecedented circumstances of the current outbreak of COVID-19. In addition to losing our forecast revenue for the next three months, over the last 10 months we have already committed a huge amount of pre-paid staging, logistical and staffing costs towards this year’s event which are now unrecoverable. Put plainly, refunding participant entry fees now is not something our business could absorb.
"Although our Terms & Conditions of participation allow us to withhold refunds in these circumstances, we would never choose to exercise this in normal circumstances as cancellation would almost always result from an insurable event (e.g. poor weather) where money recovered from insurance is then used to refund riders. We hope you understand that this situation is completely unprecedented and could not have been foreseen by anyone.
"We understand that you will be deeply disappointed. We, along with the rest of the UK events industry, are facing an enormous challenge to survive and the industry is likely to look very different once this crisis has subsided. We are currently doing everything we can to try and navigate our way through this incredibly challenging period to give ourselves the very best chance of bringing the event back in 2021. Should that happen, you can rest assured that your understanding and support at this difficult time will not be forgotten.
"On behalf of the whole Vélo Team, we want to wish you and your family well over the coming weeks and months. We thank you for your understanding."
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