Guest journalist Fraser Watson sets out his strong views on this year's Long Course Weekend

Long Course Weekend

Let's get the obvious out the way first.

The Long Course Weekend is a great annual event. For three days it captivates Tenby and beyond, and crowd response reflects that. The varied format allows for great levels of participation, with entrants able to take on the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and 26.2 mile marathon in full – or tackle isolated disciplines over lesser distances.

Those who label it merely as an Ironman warm up do it a disservice. While the event isn’t on the same scale of what goes down every September, staggering it over three different days presents a different challenge, asking weary bodies to twice recharge having shut down overnight.

The decision to cancel the 2020 event entirely wouldn’t have been taken lightly by Activity Wales Events. But like so many other sports right now, the bigger picture made the prospect of pressing ahead inconceivable.

Unfortunately, this is where current niceties end. In handling the disappointment this week, organisers haven’t so much shot themselves in the feet but nigh on blown their own heads off.

Competitors were e-mailed to notify that 50% of the entrance fees would be refunded with no deferral option allowed. Even those who paid extra for cancellation insurance would not be covered – presumably they missed the footnote exclaiming a Coronavirus pandemic was classed as extenuating circumstances.

Also attached was an offer to all who had lost money of a cut price entry to the Long Course Events in Holland, Belgium, and Australia later this year. Surprisingly, the concept of spending thousands on flights and accommodation for races not yet guaranteed to go ahead wasn’t met with universal excitement.

The website terms and conditions even appear to have been altered since initial payments were taken. That was never going to go unnoticed.

It isn’t always as simple as dishing out full refunds. Costs would have already been incurred and the cancellation will dent the Activity Wales bank balance, not to mention businesses in Tenby, significantly.

But this isn’t the time for greed. And taking money off people who have entered in good faith without presenting an option to defer to 2021 smacks of just that, greed.

The reaction on social media has been as predictable as it has understandable. Many may only have paid £20 to enter the 5k race. Others would have got in on early bird prices for the full weekend and forked out £199. Some could have parted with a grand total of £349 for VIP entry.

All have reason to feel duped. And furthermore, the silence from organisers since the discontent became apparent has been deafening.

These are of course, in case you hadn’t been told yet, unprecedented times. And in these, yes, unprecedented times, the behaviour towards others from people in positions of power and authority is more critical than even before.

That goes for the Government and how they treat NHS workers. That goes for bosses and how they treat employees. That goes for gym owners and golf club committees and how they treat members. And the topical bit here, that goes for event organisers and how they treat entrants.

In all forms of business, difficult decisions are having to be made. But even in tough times there is way of handling things and right now, give and take is needed from all concerned. When the UK eventually comes out the other side of this pandemic those who only sought to take will be remembered.

The mud will stick, the ill feeling will continue. And if you don’t believe that, best check public opinion on Mike Ashley, Tim Martin, or Richard Branson come 2021.

Already, athletes are pledging never to touch the Long Course Weekend again and organisers would do well to listen. Short term financial gain is being sought at the risk of long term detriment.

On the contrary, last night the Saundersfoot TenFoot Swim and FootStep Run events were also inevitably cancelled, with 100% refunds pledged and free entry to any 2021 races for NHS staff. I suspect the gesture will linger long in the memory for many.

Indeed, it isn’t too late for Activity Wales Events to do the right thing here. It would mean acknowledging a misjudgement, but the appreciation that would arise from simply adding a deferral option would go a considerable way to drowning out the resentment.

As stated, the Long Course Weekend is a great annual event. Don't jeopardise that by alienating those who love it.

Because if nothing else, now isn’t the time.