On a day when a lot of us were taken by surprise by the announcement of the Yorkshire Cyclo-cross Associations winter 2020-21 league being cancelled, I thought I’d share the latest thoughts here about the Westmorland Showground National Trophy event.
This event – like thousands of future sporting events – is in a state of delicate balance right now. In its favour, it’s set to take place in early October. That’s several months away and the story and position with Coronavirus develops and changes almost daily.
There are givens – already – things we know, like British Cycling racing not returning in any form until 1st September at the earliest… but there are lots of things still being shaped over the coming weeks and months. I’m trying to keep you – the riding and interested parties – in the picture. It all helps, and I want to be frank and up front. But I also want to spread optimism, too. Because that’s how I’m feeling.
Things that would be HIGHLY LIKELY to cause the event to be cancelled
There are obviously some things that are – and will remain – out of my hands, as a race organiser.
- First and foremost, the policy on cycling events is set by British Cycling. That in turn is set by sports bodies at a higher level – going on to Sport England and ultimately to the Government department. We’re totally at their whim.
- Then, there are our hosts at the showground are – like a number of businesses – hitting significant problems with the effects of Coronavirus. They are a showground. They make their money, keep a team of people in jobs, and out-and-out survive on small, medium and massive events. As an event organiser with them, one of my first ports of call as the impacts of Coronavirus hit was to just contact them and see how they’re doing. They’re lovely people and I knew they’d be hit hard by this. Ultimately, in a worst case scenario, this could be it for them. They could be done. All out of a job. Land sold to become agricultural land. They are an absolute prime stakeholder.
They are coping okay. Government support as we all know has been a lifeline to many businesses. But it won’t stretch to everything. They have lost tens of thousands of pounds in income already this year. But they have said that, if we can do the event, then they will be happy for us to come along in October. We love them for that.
Things that COULD cause the event to be cancelled or hit big problems
If it hasn’t dawned on any readers, a best-case scenario of all British Cycling competition starting up again in any form from 1st Septemeber – their current date for first competition – will be beset with new problems.
- They (British Cycling) could be asked to extend that date
- The world of cycling is going to be very busy in this best-case scenario, and our key volunteers – mainly Commissaires and judges – could be in high demand. For years we have scraped by with riders only having a handful of Commissaires to moan about (!!) and the country already has a shortage. Add to that a compacted road and MTB timetable and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that there will be some massive competition on their time and good will. The National Trophy event needs 5 National Commissaires and one International Commissaire, never mind experiences line-judges and manual lap counters. They will be spread thinly.
- We also have potential problems in local objections. Even if we assume we can provide for the new requirements of safe ‘communal’ areas such as sign-on, pits, after-finish area, catering, showers and WCs, we still could run the risk of a local ‘interested party’ (the local NHS trusts, the local Police, for example) having real and viable concerns about an event with so many people taking place. It’s June as I write this and all I can say is we just don’t know where things like that will be in October.
- Then there’s good old COST. Yep – you heard it here first. I don’t just do this for love. I don’t like the idea of running a major loss-making event. We have the hugely generous support and help of the Fred Whitton Ride, WHEELBASE, and incredibly valuable partnership with the North West Cyclocross Association and Kendal Cycling Club. But none of them would be keen to be involved in running the event in 2021 and beyond if 2020 was a massive flop. Rider numbers are massively important to the budget, too. With the levies of only a handful less riders last year, we’d have made a loss. With other Road and MTB events likely to be on the same weekend now, budget it a big worry.
Things we can do to mitigate the risk.
This is where my love for the sport comes in. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m planning as best I can do.
- I’m making sure that we plan and confirm what we can do, whilst keeping the closest eye possible on what we need to pay for and when.
- I’m working with other partners to make sure that they are aware of the status and latest thoughts on the event
- I’m looking at what social distancing measures emerge from other sports and trying to learn from those and plan for this event.
There will come a point – probably in late August – when it will be make or break (or brake). Either full gas, or brakes on and withdraw from the 2020 event.
The current working assumption is that the event is on. I hope that makes you feel warm in some way. Be assured – all the team behind organising this absolutely love cyclo-cross and would do anything to make the National Trophy not only as good as last year, but even better.