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Vélo Essex cancelled – but entrants will get less than half their money refunded

Organisers blame coronavirus uncertainty for canceling September event but admit ticket sales were low

Organisers ​of the Vélo Essex closed road sportive, due to have taken place in September, have cancelled the event, citing uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic – but they have admitted that sales of places had been low, and that entrants will only have 45 per cent of their money refunded.

Some 15,000 places had been made available for the inaugural edition of the 100-mile closed road sportive, starting and finishing in Chelmsford, which was due to have been held on Sunday 20 September.

One road.cc reader who contacted us after the announcement that event would be cancelled pointed out that other event organisers, such as Outlaw Triathlon, were “working hard to rearrange, postpone or rollover events” and were offering full refunds.

He highlighted that in the case of Vélo Essex, it did not seem “overly fair” that only 45 per cent of the entrance fee was being offered as a refund, and that there was no opportunity to switch to another future event.

“I’ll never be signing up to one of their events again,” he added.

Active Sport & Entertainment Ltd, who run the event, said that unlike other sportives whose organisers hope to run them in the autumn, the fact that Vélo Essex is not sold out and is more difficult to stage from a logistical point of view, as well as coronavirus not being covered under their business interruption insurance, meant they had no option but to cancel the event.

The third edition of sister event Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, originally launched as Vélo Birmingham in 2017 and due to take place on 21 June, coinciding with the national road championships, was cancelled earlier this month, with no refunds offered to would-be participants.

> Vélo Birmingham & Midlands sportive cancelled with no refunds

When the cancellation of that event was announced, its website said that organisers would “happily provide all 2020 Vélo Birmingham & Midlands entrants with a free entry into Vélo Essex 2020” – a pledge made redundant by today’s news.

Vélo Birmingham was first launched in 2016 by a company called CSM Active, which at the time counted double Olympic gold medallist and London 2012 supremo Lord Coe among its directors, with the debut edition taking place in September 2017.

> Details released of 100-mile Vélo Birmingham sportive, coming in September 2017

A planned second edition the following year was postponed, and the event returned last year under the new name, Vélo Birmingham & Midlands.

A second event scheduled to take place in September 2018, Vélo South, was cancelled three days beforehand due to a severe weather warning. Organisers said they hoped to rearrange the event for 2019, but that never happened.

> Weather warnings force cancellation of Vélo South closed road sportive

Last September was also due to see the first edition of Vélo North in County Durham, but that event was cancelled in July since organisers had been unable to sell enough places to make the event viable, prompting anger from entrants, some of whom had forked out hundreds of pounds for travel and accommodation.

> Anger at Vélo North cancellation

That means that out of six planned events since Vélo Birmingham was launched three and a half years ago, four will have been cancelled – and five out of seven if you count the second edition of that event, which was skipped.

The full statement published today on the Vélo Essex website reads:

In light of the ongoing Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and the latest government forecasts that indicate social distancing measures could be in place for the next six months, it is with much sadness that we announce the cancellation of Vélo Essex, scheduled to take place on Sunday September 20, 2020.

We know how excited you were to ride the inaugural event and that many of you had already begun training and raising money for a range of amazing charities. Please believe us when we say that we share your bitter disappointment – we are absolutely devastated that we’ve had to make this decision.

One of the key reasons for making this announcement with just under six months to go until the event was that we still have a considerable number of entry places left to fill.  We were initially confident of selling the balance of entries over the coming summer months, however the escalating Covid-19 pandemic has meant we are unable to rely on these sales to cover the significant cost of staging this event.  To compound matters, the important operational planning we should be undertaking is now severely compromised by the restrictions we are now all facing.

You may be aware that some major mass participation events have pushed back their dates back to September or October in the hope that restrictions will be lifted and they will be able to take place on their re-scheduled dates.  The main difference between these events and the inaugural Vélo Essex is that these events are either already sold out or logistically less demanding.

Whilst we carry extensive business interruption and event cancellation insurance, unfortunately, as is common with many mass participation events, none of these policies cover the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

Our rider Terms & Conditions do not require us to provide a refund under these special circumstances. However, having calculated the significant staffing, planning and marketing costs incurred over the last six months, we are able to refund 45 per cent of your entry fee (merchandise and camping purchases will be refunded in full).  You will receive a refund automatically which will be paid within the next 3-5 working days.

By making this difficult decision now we are able to offer you a partial refund – something that wouldn’t have been possible if we continued planning and investing into the event over the coming months, only for the event to be cancelled at a later date.  We also didn’t want to roll entries into 2021 as the future of Vélo Essex is currently very uncertain.

We hope you’ll understand why we have had to make these difficult decisions and we want to reassure you that in no way have we benefited from this incredibly unfortunate situation.

On behalf of all the Vélo team, we want to wish you and your family well over the coming weeks and months.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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25 comments

Avatar
CrazyIvan1 | 3 years ago
0 likes

HAVE BEEN MUGGED!

Paid £ 83.74 in full on the 28th February.

Cancelled one month later and charged a fee of £ 45.45

Have received back £ 35.55

Not acceptable to me.  I plan to take legal action through the small claims court.

For anyone else in the same position, and if we can get sufficent number, would propose a class action to recover the money.

I will never pay for an event like this upfront again!

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Kendalred | 3 years ago
0 likes

I signed up to the Velo North last year, but fortunately got a full refund (not accommodation costs though - my fault for choosing the cheaper non-refundable option). Looks like I got lucky! I can't see anyone ever signing up for one of their events in future - just not worth the risk.

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stever | 3 years ago
3 likes

Just cancelled a running event. Full refund minus small admin to electronic provider. Option to donate refund to Mind or Trussel Trust. That's how you do it.

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W12 Hatter | 3 years ago
0 likes

I was signed up for the cancelled Velo South when it was cancelled. I was refunded my entry fee but lost the 'admin' fee. At least it gave me priority entry to Velo Essex! And, living in inner London, I could do Essex there-and-back in a day, so no accommodation costs. But taking 55% of my entry fee? For what?

As others have said, in furure I won't be going near anything sold or ptomoted by Active Sport & Entertainment Limited.

For what it's worth, I've been on the Companies House website. Active Sport & Entertainment Limited has just one Officer and/or Person with significant control, a certain Richard Belton, Managing Director. He's 53 years old and has been in post since 1st May 2017. His correspondence address is Tintagel House, 92 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TY.

Fortunately he does not hold positions in any other Limited Company.

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mdava replied to W12 Hatter | 3 years ago
1 like
W12 Hatter wrote:

For what it's worth, I've been on the Companies House website. Active Sport & Entertainment Limited has just one Officer and/or Person with significant control, .....

Being out of pocket is a miserable situation to be in (as I found when I had to cancel my Ride London entry months in advance for medical reasons and got nothing as a refund) and you can definitely choose to avoid any events that they might put on in the future and express your opinion as you like. 

Doxing him is not pleasant or helpful.

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W12 Hatter replied to mdava | 3 years ago
0 likes

Thank you for your opinion. I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

At least I learned a new word (courtesy Wikipedia): 'doxing'. Thanks.

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brooksby replied to mdava | 3 years ago
0 likes

Is it still doxing if his name and a service address are made available on public record at Companies House, though?

(edited to remove Companies House link)

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fukawitribe replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

Is it still doxing if his name and a service address are made available on public record at Companies House, though?

Yes.

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brooksby replied to fukawitribe | 3 years ago
0 likes
fukawitribe wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Is it still doxing if his name and a service address are made available on public record at Companies House, though?

Yes.

Ok, you live and learn.  I'd thought doxing/doxxing was only putting something in the public domain which wasn't already out there.

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fukawitribe replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Is it still doxing if his name and a service address are made available on public record at Companies House, though?

Yes.

Ok, you live and learn.  I'd thought doxing/doxxing was only putting something in the public domain which wasn't already out there.

It's the action of putting it out there prominently that's the crux, rather than the source (although it's often not somewhere obvious) - doesn't make this debacle any more palatable mind...

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rowes replied to W12 Hatter | 3 years ago
3 likes

Before you name and shame a person, might be worth getting his name correct. A little extra research, shows he has had numerous other sports event companies that have have gone bust and assets transferred to the latest ones.

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jigr69 replied to rowes | 3 years ago
2 likes

The parent company however, has done quite nicely out of cycling events (they also do other events). The latest set of accounts have them posting a £35 million profit. So they could easily have covered the costs for a full refund for both events that should have been held.

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W12 Hatter replied to rowes | 3 years ago
0 likes

Well spotted! Don't know how the error occurred, except for maybe me being a bit 'tired and emotional' (© Private Eye) after another day isolating myself.

I've followed your further research. Hmmm, interesting!

PS - As I got the person's name wrong, does that mean I WASN'T 'doxing', as the name I gave isn't a real person?

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stomec | 3 years ago
4 likes

Also don't forget that the first event ran out of food and drink at the rest stops!

These guys are incompetent charlatans and no one should give them money ever again...

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alchemilla | 3 years ago
0 likes

It's about time these huge money-making events were stopped anyway, they've got too big to organise, and if any one thing goes wrong it leaves thousands of people disgruntled and out of pocket. They upset local residents who are trapped in their homes (although maybe we're all used to that now) and attract wannabes who are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. Who would want to ride with 15000 others anyway? Sounds like a nightmare scenario.

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HarrogateSpa replied to alchemilla | 3 years ago
8 likes

Yes, except for the local residents "trapped in their homes".

It's a very few local residents who have tantrums because they can't use their cars from their driveways for a few hours on a Sunday after being given months of notice.

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nickW1 replied to alchemilla | 3 years ago
1 like

I have ridden the amstel gold sportive twice a mass participation event but the emphisis is on fun and its a nice event and the next day you get to see the pros ride the course, we ended up getting a freindly tow from one of the ladies pro teams out for a leg spin, fun,  good laugh and actually a decent ride hardly a nightmare scenario 

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Lawro | 3 years ago
5 likes

It'll be interesting to see how the Covid19 CMA fraud section @ Gov.UK view this - I have asked them to investigate. It also seems contrary to their terms and conditions which says if Organiser cancels the Participants get their entry fee back. There is no Force Majeure as Government has not indicated events scheduled for September need to be cancelled.

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The Rake | 3 years ago
4 likes

How many of their events have actually gone ahead? Velo South cancelled, Velo North cancelled, Velo Birmingham cancelled, Velo Essex cancelled. Almost like they are a bit too keen on cancelling them

i understand there were circumstances around some, but they are very quick off the mark on this one

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Organon | 3 years ago
1 like

Um, so Birmingham entrants get nothing, but these get 45%? The more I hear about this operation the less I like it. I have yet to do one of their events but did pay for VB20 and have just had the explanation email. I understand the cancellation in the circumstances and looked at the fee as my loss to the crisis, but hearing more about their operations is annoying me. I've not yet put a claim in to my bank but one more piece of negative publicity might sway me.

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jigr69 replied to Organon | 3 years ago
4 likes

How about that they are running a business that is in the red, but managed to have over a £1 million per year in admin costs. The parent company made at the last set of accounts over £35 million.

It wouldn't surprise me if I found out that by keeping active sport in the red, they pay no taxes but the parent company charges them a huge admin fee every year. Its the same sort of thing big businesses done to minimise tax in a country, resuscitation if the parent company is in a country where the tax regimes are more favorable.

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nniff replied to jigr69 | 3 years ago
1 like

Fear not - the parent company are on the case. Thei annual report says:

Ethics and integrity
Our Group agencies create, promote and manage brands, individuals, events, commercial and governing organisations. We recognise that the integrity of our own staff and our approach to business are essential to the maintenance of our own reputation.
Our divisions and agencies have set out the core values by which they work, reflecting the diverse nature of our business and operations. These values are underpinned by our Responsible Business Code and our Staff Code of Conduct, which are shared across the Group.
 

So that's alright then

 

 

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Carl Flinn replied to nniff | 3 years ago
1 like

It’s morally and probably legally wrong for them to withhold 55% of the entrance fee despite their disclaimer within the conditions.  

They need to be outed for what they are - chancers and con-artists

They’ve taken money from people and then not delivered what was paid for, sitting on hundreds of thousands of pounds - how can they be allowed to get away with it?

Active Sport and Richard Belton need to be blacklisted from running any future cycling events.

 

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Awavey replied to Carl Flinn | 3 years ago
1 like

Well interestingly,and no doubt deliberately to avoid any legal wrangling, you are firstly refunded the whole entry fee, but then there is a cancellation fee added to the transaction, which results in you being repaid only 45% of the entry fee.

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mdavidford replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
1 like

Isn't a cancellation fee generally supposed to apply when you drop out, rather than if the organisers cancel the event?

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