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Half of UK mass participation event organisers expect 50 per cent revenue loss

Over half of the UK’s mass participation event organisers have said they anticipate business revenue losses of over 50 per-cent this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

The survey of 2,600 UK event organisers was conducted by the Sussex Innovation Centre on behalf of event registration technology firm RaceNation.

54 per cent of respondents said they estimate a business revenue loss of over 50 per cent this year, with 93 per cent of race organisers having reported overall losses in revenue.

The mass participation sector has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic because of bans on mass gatherings and the industry’s heavy dependence on race entry fees.

The survey appears to indicate some business will not survive the crisis, with 13 per cent of those surveyed saying they do not plan to organise events in 2021.

In recent interview with SportBusiness, Andrew Messick, chief executive of the Ironman Group, the largest organiser of mass participation events in the world, predicted that the industry would move away from its globalised model and seek to organise more events targeted at local audiences to weather the crisis.

Those surveyed appeared to agree that the pandemic would impact buying habits with 59 per cent of race organisers foreseeing entrants purchasing tickets for events closer to their homes and 13 per cent believing that tickets will be purchased just before an event to protect against changing government guidance.

Of those continuing to plan for 2021, the majority of event organisers (71 per cent) said they will be seeking new sponsors to fund future events as a result of lost revenue.

There was more positivity about the long-term with 35 per cent of organisers thinking ticket sales will increase in the future because of the pent-up demand from participants who haven’t competed for a long time. 19 per cent of event organisers thought ticket sales will increase long-term because more people have taken up running during lockdown.

Event participants also showed a willingness to support the sector with the survey revealing 81 per cent of race entrants would race again within three months of lockdown measures being lifted, of which over half (51 per cent) said that they would return straight away.

Event organisers have attempted to shore up revenues during the pandemic by organising virtual races but the survey appeared to suggest this might only be a short-term fix.

53 per cent of participants said they had competed in at least one virtual event during lockdown but only 10 per cent said they would look to continue racing in this way.

Last week, the Endurance Coalition – an organisation that counts mass participation event organisers Ironman, Spartan Race and USA Triathlon among its members – wrote a letter to US lawmakers imploring them to extend financial support packages to see the industry through the crisis.

The letter claimed eighty per cent of US mass participation businesses could disappear by the end of 2020 without further government support.