COVID-19 and Eventing

Challenging Times!


Steve Knowles - eventplus Co-founder/director & part time athlete

Event postponements, cancelations, quarantines preventing international entrants travelling; COVID-19 has created some challenging times for event professionals for sure!

But the event professionals we support are a very resourceful bunch. In recent years you’ve been presented with increasing weather events, bushfires and earthquakes and now COVID-19. The biggest take-away has been just how resilient this community is.

At the same time, however, remember we are here to help.

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We are fielding calls and chats every day from event directors and athletes, all doing their research wanting to know the implications, weighing up options and refactoring plans.

Many events have adjusted to work within Government mass-gathering restrictions, with Australia already limited to 500 people and New Zealand 500 announced today (16/3/2020). Now further restrictions on a daily basis (20/3/20)

Other more international events are already cancelling or restricting international competitors. Borders are now closing (19/3/20)

Events are refunding, or told too. Some incurring big bills they never planned for, others no costs.

Without fail, everyone is rushing between relevant professionals, authorities, suppliers & crew re-working plans and in many cases, dates.

Questions range hugely and we’re here to help.

As innovators in the sports registration space we can advise on every impacted aspect of the event life-cycle, from registration to late entries, rewards programmes, refunds, postponements and cancellations.

COVID-19 designed event rescue features/service. Helping to keep your momentum and ready to bounce back further as everyone drops their events in the first few months as government lift restructions.

Give us a call if you need advice.

Events are adapting and taking advice from their athletes.

More below…….


Focus On What You Can Control

Multi-time IMNZ winner, Cameron Brown, once said something to me that has stuck as a bit of a motto for life. It was at the 2006 Ironman NZ; swim leg cancelled due to massive waves on Lake Taupo, the pros were sent off at intervals like a time trial duathlon and before the start I asked Cameron what was his plan for the reduced format?

“I only focus on what I have control of and don’t worry about the other things.” he replied.

Those words stuck and were revived many times in my own personal life - sports, family & business!

Worrying would have impacted his race psyche and drained his energy.

COVID-19 is a similar situation. A lot of things are out of our control and more come each day. But experienced event professionals have been here before and we see them focusing on the things they can control.

Asking the right question early, adapt their plans and communicate updates for the safety of their athletes and crew.

Governments have started to advise against mass gatherings due to the risk of the virus, Australia no more than 500 people, Switzerland 1,000, California 250…. NZ now 500.

Travel restrictions, closing borders, to 14 days self-quarantine for incoming travellers.

Our international athletes are having problems getting home.

Race directors seem to be assessing the risks day by day, adapting & communicating on a regular basis.

Communication is key with COVID, people are hungry for information, to rationalise the situation in their own mind. Not only athletes, also event crew, suppliers and sponsors.

Some events are cancelled, others postponed, some restructuring to keep within limits, others advising internationals not to attend.

For some the decision is out of their hands. For others cancelation can be an easy option for some smaller events, or continue running the event as there are no virus cases in their regions. For everyone it’s a tough juggle, their passion, business & lifeblood (crew, family, partners, etc).

What We Are Finding

This blog is from our perspective eventplus HQ talking to race directors and answering athlete chat support.

Ideas have been thrown around the office & discussions with event directors and kicking into acion, which I’ll share below..

By the way Cameron Brown came second in 2006. He was the “chased rabbit” first out on the bike. He went on to win 7 more IMNZs, with a grand total of 12 IMNZ victories to date.

We are here to help you where we can, to both learn from COVID & come out stronger!

COVID-19 Is An Ever-moving Target

Talking to race directors, they say they plan for the unknown, it’s just part of eventing.

So in many ways COVID-19 is just part of business as usual.

But it’s an an ever-moving target

Sports organisations around the world have made decisions and announcements:

    ~ ITU - suspends all activities and races until the end of April

    ~ Xterra - statement, cancellation & postponements

    ~ Ironman - Group - COVID Updates & athlete options

    ~ FINA - has gathered a COVID task force

    ~ UCI - Impact of COVID on International Calendar


Athletes Are Seeking Clarity

eventplus chat is fielding support questions from athletes:

    ~ Will the event still run?

    ~ If the event is cancelled or postponed will I get a refund? How much?

    ~ Will I get an automatic entry into next year's event? (usually Sell-out events)

    ~ If I decided not to go, can I get a refund? How much?

    ~ Where can I find the cancellation policies or registration Terms & conditions?

    ~ Can we do the event virtually somehow?

In general the athletes are supportive of the various decisions events make.

Event Owners Seeking Advice

Some events want to know the options, impact, process & financial details.

Factors that help them decide if I run the event, defer to a later date, postpone to next year or cancel... or something else.

Others have taken a wait and see approach, some have the luxury of time.

No one person has all the answers, nor will there be one solution.

Medical professionals are discovering more about the virus daily.

Every event is different, every point in time with COVID-19 can be different.

We suggest involving your crew and seek professional advice (lawyers, accountants, safety advisors, authorities, consents, health officials..). Keep your plan revised & current.

Talk with your sponsors, service providers, merchandise sellers & athletes.

Everyone is in this together and most are very understanding & want to work with you.

The sports industry was rocked by the Christchurch earthquakes, Australian & Nelson bush fires, to increasing bad-weather issues, to ecological disaster like Kauri Dieback with the forest & trails closed.

Race directors are vistonary & experts at delivery. The industry adapts and evolves.

If it’s about your registration, policy on purchase, refunds or rewards and motivation programmes, then let's have a chat and see how we can help.

For starters, here’s some of the clinical stuff directors have talked to us about:

    ~ Review your event cancellation policy – cancellation, postponement.

    ~ Make sure your policy is easily accessed on your website (some are only available on entry)

    ~ Confirm the cancellation policy in-line with your countries Consumer Guarantees Act or similar          ~ Factor in refund costs. Events report high costs they didn't expect, others no additional costs, or free refunds. Devils in details of the contract and magnitude of risk.

    ~ Review your event insurance, talk to your broker regarding what’s included or excluded. When insurance can be claimed, owner cancelled event vs government health restrictions?

    ~ Keep updated from your local health experts

    ~ Seek legal/professional advice on your financial exposure

    ~ Revise your plan, keep open lines of communications with athletes, crew, sponsors, suppliers and Partners.. (email & Facebook)

    ~ Expect athlete’s expectations and reactions to vary

    ~ Athletes and supporters do appreciate a decision before they travel

    ~ Cashflow is king - model options, know your bottom line.

    ~ A series of events over a year is less vulnerable than a single event mid COVID-19. Any ideas on new events to fill the cashflow gap?

    ~ Factor in your cancellation policy & who may actually turn up at your event

    ~ Governments are talking about business aid, tax initiatives & asking banks to be considerate (mortgage holidays). Follow this closely (17/3/20 Nz Govt announced a rescue package for business. $7k wage support for 3months).          ~ In some countries (Australia) banks are giving small businesses 6 months loan holidays.

    ~ Keep your social media community alive with reliable Ministry of Health information on COVID-19, your situation, but also inspirational & sports related stories/pictures & video.

    ~ Create a strategy to keep your business momentum rolling and be first on the boat to bounce out.


COVID-19 Considerations (based on reporting):

    ~ Risk is expanded beyond just event and crew/athlete on the event day

    ~ Personal & social/community risk.. friends, family & work colleagues.

    ~ People are infected and contagious before they are visibly sick

    ~ Travel increases exposure

How Long Will COVID-19 last?

Some are asking us how long COVID-19 will impact the industry?

We are not experts on the virus or event risk mitigation.

We feel the first indications will be when events are re-established in China, Asia and Northern Italy & Europe.

The window is presently 2 months and growing

How long after consumer confidence returns is another unknown (athletes entering). Hopefully not too long.

Keeping Your Athlete Audience Engaged, Business Momentum

Your business & events are momentum machines.

In uncertain times some bunker down, others scale up.

A while back we kicked off some discussions with owners. Ideas to keep everyone sane and connected in times when being physically connected may not be possible in the short term future.

Here’s a starting point for stimulating some thinking.

1/ - Virtual Challenges

Virtual challenge in eventplus to keep your entrants motivated and committed to doing your event at a later date?

Super easy to get setup and rolling with! The entrant is given “challenges” and needs to report back on how they went on their event registration.

You could set this as a pathway to your actual event. Virtual stages 5-10-20km steps to your actual marathon later in the year.

Or run the actual event course at different times (assuming not private land etc).

Something like this …

1st April - Challenge: 5km hike carrying 6kg weights How was it? Upload photo

15th April - Challenge: 5km Run hilly Time ? How was it? Upload photo

Then display a Challenge list on your website showing who's doing the challenge, their milestones, photos etc.

If the outdoors is not an option.. Running treadmill or stationary cycle trainer

You could connect them while training via video conference or Vblog to your specialist coach or past winner.

Events are now using this.

Athletes are happy as they have done the training build-up and will recieve their Medals, T shirts, certs... Sustainable, not to the rubbish.

Pollyanne from the national Plunket Run Run said "Since switcing to virtual events we had so much interest we decided to open it to the whole country!"

More on Bay Break here

Talk to us if you want to know more.

2/- Getting Together In A Group Remotely

Offer for free or for a small charge?

Get a bunch of people together via a video group conference to listen to a coach, someone scouting part of the course, previous winner, yoga instructor etc. Give out a few spot prizes etc…

Interested in discussing this more with us / or join a small group to brainstorm other ideas?

3/ - Loyalty and Achievement Programmes

Some are considering using the downtime to invest time & create loyalty and achievement programs. So they can hit the ground running when normality returns.

Taking past results or attendence data and loading onto their eventplus dashboard.

Publishing then creating a host of initiatives... recognising, rewarding, special clubs…. Gold bibs, special tops, discounts…

This feature is used by events in various forms for some time now and can feedback into registration for automate workload & reward/engage athletes. Taupo Cycle Challenge - Cadence Club to Ultra Trail Australia - Legends of UTA.

Past competitors are the easiest converts. You can view your conversion ratios with the Dashboard “previous entrants” graph/stats.

Want to keep in touch or have ideas?

Contact us on


Make sure you have information on your website.

Even if you don’t know the answers a statement saying that you’re seeking advice, or what the situation is will reduce the enquiries in your inbox, phones, social media and of course eventplus live chat!)

Have a link to your terms and conditions which the entrant agreed to.

Contact Us

If you are interested to explore COVID-19 “Stay home” or “Boost my event” ideas

If you are making any date changes / changing arrangements / refunding.

If it helps we could write a blog on working remotely with modern tools in the planning & preparation of events. Some we feel have this sussed … some are struggling with spreadsheets and email/calls.

All said, we are seeing a lot of events still planning to run or rescheduling to a new date.

If you want to get your news out to a wider audience can help. Email Or list your event in their events calendar.

Here to help Steve, Jen & eventplus Team

Helpful Links

    ~ Coronavirus? Infectious Disease Expert Michael Osterholm Explains

    ~ Australian Govt Health updates

    ~ New Zealand Govt Health updates

    ~ NZ Govt Press Conference on gatherings over 500 people

Examples of action plans

    ~ Ironman Group COVID-19 event updates and Information

    ~ Xterra races formal statement on COVID-19, and event status update page

    ~ Stay up to date World Health Organisation

Lets hope for fun times resumes at events soon..

Book a strategy session now


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Ultra Trail Australia Managing Exceptional Growth - Tom & Alina story