Pay as you go
This is an interesting strategy. Charging spectators at a cross-country event is an alien concept to most running events. We are all used to turning up at races, ducking under race tape, running across the course, coming and going as we please.
This is about to change this coming December as Dublin proposes to charge an entry fee into the European Cross Country championships.
It’s no minimal charge or loose-change throw into a bucket either. At €20 it is a ‘considered purchase’, sure we agree that it is still a lot less than most football clubs charge for what is only 90 minutes of entertainment, and said 20 euros will get you almost six hours of racing and support events. Still, we have to remember a couple of other factors here. There will be no warm seating, the weather could well be inclement, will there be shelter, and what’s more the race will be televised on BBC TV. So, how can the AAI justify this entry fee?
As quite rightly pointed out in a commentary piece in last week’s Athletics Weekly many teams will have made the long trek and spectators will attend anyway. However, it is those spectators that make the decision on the day, those youngsters that wish to see some international cross country. Yes, AAI are offering discount to €10 and yes we agree at MST that to ensure that the sport flourishes in the future this action is a positive move to ensuring that funding is strong and the professionalism of events continues to strive to match that of sports such as football, which let’s face it are all battling for the consumers’ £/€…
We admire the AAI for trying to raise the bar physically and with regard to people’s perceptions of the sport. If additional funding is required to do this, then it is right to charge and entry fee, whether the €20 fee is a justifiable price is another discussion. One thing is for sure, if event and race organisations are to make this unprecidented step then there must be a return for the consumer, the organisers cannot merely roll out the old “challenging economic times” chestnut, as Marketing officer Clare McKoy does on behalf of the organisers.
There must be a tangible benefit other than an organisation or federation arguing that funding of said event needs to be part-met by the consumer, and it is right because other sporting events do it? There has to be added value, the 2009 Spar Euro Cross in Dublin needs to be the greatest European XC champs ever, and then some – otherwise this could be the thin end of a very big, costly wedge.