As tournaments and leagues around the country continue to cancel, the questions on many of our minds revolve around refunds. Will I be refunded? Will it be a full refund? Why won’t I be refunded for a cancelled event? What’s taking so long to get my refund?
The Covid-19 pandemic has touched everyone in our industry without regard to the size of the organization, their longevity, or their accomplishments. We’ve felt the reverberations of hardship through the clubs we serve and see the effects of the outbreak in our own office. Our board, finance committee and staff have spent hours crunching numbers and ruminating over refund policies in order to return funds to our clubs while staying afloat ourselves. Many event organizers across the country, including the JVA, are bound by contracts with venues and servicers, back-end expenses, and operating costs that dictate the plausibility of entry refunds and the speed of their return.
The teams and spectators who attend our events see the finished product: the dozens of courts equipped with officials, scoresheets, and balls; the admissions and concessions stands doling out wristbands and smoothies; the tournament desk buzzing with event staff; and the athletic trainers and vendors ready to tape ankles and customize t-shirts. Rarely is the preparation for the event revealed: the months of planning with partners and sponsors, decorators and electricians, officials, coaches, hotels and venues; the custom orders for volleyballs, awards and team passes; verifying rosters and background checks and creating emergency response plans. Checks are cut and contracts signed long before teams step onto the court.
The enormous effort that happens before the first serve is costly, time intensive, and often financed directly through team entry fees. Orders and agreements for large events are typically finalized 90 days prior, if not earlier. To prevent lost revenue from cancellations, many vendors and servicers require non-refundable deposits and charge cancellation fees if the event is cut. Customized orders can’t be unprinted. Staff members are compensated for months of planning, and the offices that house the operations require rent and utilities. For many clubs and organizations, event profits keep the lights on, replenish the payroll, and cover a myriad of odds and ends that keep the doors open. These unavoidable expenses have prevented many organizers from providing full refunds of entry fees.
To mitigate some of the damages, event directors may only be able to return a percentage of each entry fee. An additional strategy to live for another season is to offer teams the option to rollover entries to the following season. This strategy allows the organizer to spread the losses over two years and stay in business.
Recovering large deposits from venues and event servicers is often necessary in order to refund entries as well. However, the amount of time it takes for deposits to return to organizers directly impacts the turnaround time for entry refunds. As venues and vendors across the country continue to lose business and furlough staff, deposit returns lag and stall. If venues are not contractually bound to return deposits, organizers may find themselves out tens of thousands of dollars for each cancelled event.
Many organizations have applied for loans and lines of credit to help plug the financial leaks springing from cancelled events. However, Covid-related needs have produced an avalanche of applications that delay the approval process. The arrival of these lifeboats largely shapes the timeline of returning entry fees to clubs, despite the unconditional need for refunds.
Over the last few months, folks in our industry have felt the strain of paying operating costs without revenue, the pressure to return player dues, and the uncertainty of solvency in an unprecedented way. From this adversity; creativity, ingenuity and perseverance have flowed. With clubs working together and with event directors, we will all come out wounded but alive.
About the Author
Lauren Ray is the JVA Event Coordinator and joined the JVA staff in December of 2019. A Milwaukee Sting and WI Juniors alumna, she took her volleyball career to Lawrence University where she graduated in 2018 with a degree in Anthropology. In her off-time, Lauren coaches the JV 2 team at New Berlin West High School and the 12s team at Motion Volleyball Program.