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07-04-2022 | Frank Jansen

On the first rank for a dime?

As events are happening again at large scale, registration fees are being criticized in various places. "40 euros for a simple tour of, you'd have to be crazy to pay that". Or "90 euros for the Tour of Flanders, while you can ride the route for free all year round. Ridiculous.". Criticism is fine, but the arguments are often extremely weak. Commercial organizers deserve an honest living, not unfounded criticism.

It is almost always the commercial organizations that have to suffer. The argument of high entry prices is usually based on events organised by local cycling associations, often for less than €10. Such a tour is in no way comparable to a commercial event.

This kind of events

  • ... have no profit motive.
  • ... Are often (because they have few participants) not or much less required to have permits. Arranging permits costs an incredible amount of time and therefore money.
  • ... require much less support (think of emergency services, signalmen and traffic controllers).
  • ... run 100% on volunteers.
  • ... Have minimal or no feed stations at all
  • .
  • ... are in any case much more minimalist, for example, signage is nowadays very rare and the course is never car-free.

It is therefore perfectly logical that a commercial event is many times more expensive than a non-commercial. There is much more to it than many people think. A parking lot for 12,000 people is really different than one for a few hundred people. In addition, think of the costs for marketing, security, photography, logistics and staff, start/finish location, guarded bicycle storage, and so on. Many gran fondos also require car-free course.

Supply and demand

On top of that, many commercial events are extremely popular (e.g. Mallorca 312 and La Marmotte). For that reason, the organizers can simply charge a high price. A classic case of supply and demand. A principle that has been the basis of our economic system for thousands of years.

Participation is voluntary

Many critics act as if there is no alternative. As if you are forced to necessarily ride the Tour of Flanders for 90€. Nothing could be further from the truth, however: you can ride the route completely free on 363 other days of the year. Or buy a ticket on the second-hand market. No one is forcing you to pay the entry price to do this necessarily on April 2. Of course, if you ride on a different date, you'll miss out on the atmosphere of the event. But remember: it's a free choice. You can also choose not to go because you find it too expensive. No one is forcing you to eat at a 3 star restaurant. You can also just choose to get a the special of the day at the bistro around the corner.

Making money is taboo

In many Calvinistic European countries, your company should be ashamed of the fact that you want to make money from something. By the outside world, commercial organizations are not infrequently dismissed as money wolves and grabs. This is an extremely weak (and also hypocritical) argument, because hardly any person will work for free for his or her boss, so why should an organizer? It is perfectly normal for commercial organizations to charge a profit mark-up. And if an event turns out to be very popular, it is perfectly understandable that the price will increase. One would be crazy not to. Of course, this does not take away from the fact that 90 euros for the RVV is a lot of money. But the trip is (almost) sold out every year, there are not many complaints about the quality so the price seems justified.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that many organizers have a particularly difficult period behind them. For almost 2 years very few events have gone ahead. It stands to reason that they now want to recoup some of those costs. The profit margins most organizations charge are quite reasonable - certainly no higher than most other services.

Criticism is allowed

This certainly doesn't mean that high registration fees should always become the norm. There are plenty of events that take it to the extreme and you have to wonder if it still makes sense. This also applies to paid raffles where sometimes tons of money is earned without organizing anything at all. But criticism of high entry prices is in most cases simply unjustified.

It's good to have a discussion about ticket prices. But don't compare apples with oranges. And give organizers an honest living.

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