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Comrades Marathon facing losses of more than R20m after cancellation of the event

11 February 2021 - 11:46 By mahlatse mphahlele
Gerda Steyn crosses the Comrades Marathon finish line in 2019.
Gerda Steyn crosses the Comrades Marathon finish line in 2019.
Image: Jackie Clausen

The cancellation of this year's Comrades Marathon is set to come at huge financial cost after it emerged on Thursday that calling off the world’s premier ultra-marathon due to the coronavirus pandemic would lead to massive losses amounting to more than R20m.

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) said on Wednesday that while this year’s event, which was scheduled for June 13, has been cancelled due to Covid-19‚ they are going ahead with the virtual race.

This is the second year in a row that the ultra-marathon has been cancelled due to the pandemic. CMA general manager Keletso Totlhanyo said their financial situation may worsen in the coming months.

“At the moment I won’t say we are in a very bad situation financially‚ but we don’t know what it’s going to be like come June and July‚” she said.

“When it comes to local entries alone‚ last year it was R600 per person and we opened for about 26,000 runners. If we were going to go back to the same amount this year‚ we are talking about more than R16m.

“With regards to sponsorships‚ it’s difficult to say exactly how much we are going to lose because it depends on agreements and various other things.

“One of our main income generators are the runner entries and the fact that we are not going to have a race means we are not going to get the income.

“You must remember that for last year already we deferred entries for international runners in 2021 and 2022. This means that we won’t be getting anything from anywhere when it comes to entries‚ and that is going to affect our income.”

Totlhanyo said even without income from local and overseas runner entries‚ the CMA has not been forced to dip into its financial reserves yet.

“Last year we had a virtual event and there were some funds that we were able to get out of that‚ and we are hoping for the same again this year. We will look at every day as it comes but the Comrades Marathon is not in [such] a bad state where we could close.

“We do have reserves and at the moment we have not even touched that account. As staff and the board‚ we are thinking of creative ways and means of making the organisation run without touching the reserves. We want Comrades Marathon to still be there for another 100 years.”

Without the race‚ the CMA is hoping to get some funds from sponsors.

“We will not get 100% sponsorship money, but what we did last year and hopefully this year is that our sponsors have always been supportive.

“They supported us with the virtual race last year, with others sponsor giving us a certain percentage of the sponsorship money.

“Maybe last year the companies were in a better position but we don’t know about this year because circumstances are different. We are hoping that they will be able to give us something.

“What I can say is that they are supportive and we engaged with our sponsors before we cancelled the race‚ so they were aware that we are going to cancel. They did not find out from the media for the first time.”