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Worlds cancelled, staff terminations – will there be any Ironman events in 2020?

The cancellation of the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championships, coupled with staff terminations, could indicate that qualifying events won't be happening this year

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

When it cancelled the 2020 editions of the Ironman World Championship and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Ironman cited the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on qualifying events around the world.

“Both world championship events have seen a majority of their respective qualifying events postponed or unable to take place in 2020,” the company said in a release on July 21. “Based on the schedule, the continuation of existing travel restrictions worldwide, and other circumstances beyond our control, Ironman’s world championship events cannot proceed as rescheduled.”

That news, coupled with updates we’re seeing on LinkedIn from former Ironman Group employees who were announcing their last day at The Ironman Group or that their positions were terminated by the company, seem to indicate that the company is not anticipating any racing this year.

It seems hardly a coincidence that the cancellations of the worlds and the job terminations comes in the same week that the sale of the Ironman Group to Advance and Orkila Capital was finalized. Last week I spoke to a few investment experts about the deal and whether it would actually go through. They all told me there was no way the deal could happen, but if it did there would be some major re-negotiations based on “material adverse change” the company is going through because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanda Group seems to be expecting its net proceeds from the sale to be US$380 million, quite a bit less than the initially reported sale price of $730 million.

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So, while Advance and Orkila seem to have negotiated a lower price, they’re still taking over an events company that can’t put on events right now. An events company that’s based on putting on races with large numbers of people. This week we’ve reported on a number of multisport races that might take place here in Canada over the next few months. One of those has capped entries at 50, another at 150, another at 175. We all know Ironman would never put on an event with those numbers. Races have disappeared from the circuit that had around 1,000 entries.

Cancelling the worlds was definitely the right move and it seems all-too-apparent, as we’re watching large races cancelled around the world, that we’re not likely to see any Ironman races in 2020. A look at the update page on Ironman.com is showing fewer and fewer events even rescheduled for later this year. With cases of COVID-19 rising in many parts of the United States and provinces loath to allow large gatherings, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see any racing on this continent. Ironman Australia has been cancelled for this year (one of the only times you’ll see “cancelled” on that update page … but that’s a topic for another time), leaving the rescheduled Ironman Cairns still slated for September. Ironman Hamburg got “rescheduled” to next year earlier this week. Based on the COVID-19 status of Brazil, it’s hardly a surprise that Ironman 70.3 Florianopolis has now been “rescheduled” for a second time – you guessed it, to April 25, 2021.

Earlier this year, during an online press conference, Ironman Group CEO Andrew Messick was candid about the challenges the company was facing.

“I keep telling our staff that we’re just trying to make it through the night, but no one knows how long the night is going to be,” he said.

It would appear that the “night” might stretch through the rest of the year.