The Man Who Tried To Save The European Championships

By now you’ve most likely heard the news that The European Championships have not paid out the prize money promised to the athletes. The £40,000 prize purse remains unpaid. The massive 10,000 seat venue has not been paid. And the judges and staff have not been paid.

Ever since Jason CF Media brought this to the public, things have just gotten more strange. The event owner, Carl Saville, has since sent several emails updating athletes on the status of payment. That messaging has got from issues with payments, explanations of further delays to a proposal to host an even bigger event in 2023 in a final attempt to make enough money to pay off its debts from this year.

But through all of this, there was actually someone who thought The European Championships could be salvaged. Enter Richard Hornsey.

Hornsey is the owner of Graft Gyms. According to Hornsey, he has had multiple conversations with sponsors, the venue and Carl Saville in a last ditch effort to rectify the situation.

But given the negative press around the situation, why would someone like Hornsey get involved? “There’s value in making sure the standard is maintained, if CrossFit is seen as a joke that effects everyone’s mission on this journey,” said Hornsey. “It effects all competitions and the sport through association, that’s why I was trying so hard to see if I could rectify it.”

[note: The European Championships is not a licensed CrossFit event and CrossFit, Inc. has not affiliation with the event or its organizers.]

From the Battle of Middleground, Rep It Out and the Arnold Fitness Games, Hornsey is no stranger to running large events in Europe. In total, Hornsey has organized 11 events this year. But just because he runs numerous fitness events throughout the year, he is fully aware that the monetary incentive to do so isn’t as big as what many fans might think.

“The truth is there’s no money in it. We do it for the passion of putting it on. One of our events, Ragnarok, which was a new concept involving other sports like Strongman alongside CrossFit,” commented Hornsey. “That event lost me £9,000 and that’s before staff costings, so probably more, but, I ran that cost at the beginning to float the concept with a view to making money back later on. Everyone still got paid though as it was my choice to run that risk.”

So then, what about The European Championships? How does Hornsey think the expenses to put on a massive event were assessed the past two years? “At the end of the day a lot of things are calculated risks but this to me, sounds like a completely uncalculated risk,” Hornsey speculated.

And something that most outside of the United Kingdom might not think about is VAT. According to Hornsey, once an event hits a certain scale, that event is subject to a 20% VAT. 

Richard also pointed out that events in the UK, once they hit a certain scale, are subject to a 20% vat charge so you can wipe 20% off your income before you even get started on projected spending. It’s just one more big expense to consider when putting on an event of this magnitude.

VAT, short for value-added tax, is a tax that is assessed on the “value added” in each stage of production. So rather than taxing the consumer when a good or service is purchased like here in the United States, every stage of production is taxed at 20%.

For Hornsey, his team runs numerous scenarios based on their experience of running previous events to determine the prize purse. They take everything into consideration – qualifier participants, sponsorships, media, venue, advertising, etc. – to compile a best-case and worst-case scenario.

The temptation is to go bigger, to promise more money, to move to a bigger venue, but, as Hornsey explains, “You have to find that optimal capacity. If you can’t grow it to get the numbers you don’t take a bigger space, if the extra space is going to cost too much then you can’t do it either.”

As of right now, it sounds like Hornsey’s attempts to keep The European Championships afloat have fallen on deaf ears. In an email sent to athletes last week, Saville lamented that “unfortunately we haven’t been able to secure a full takeover bid that would result in all outstanding debts being paid and avoiding liquidation.”

So it appears that Saville and his team are planning to double down with their 2023 event. But after the past month, many have wondered if the negative publicly surrounding the events that have occurred will hamper the ability to pull off such a feat. We will likely not know whether Saville can pull off a miracle, but for the sake of future CrossFit/functional fitness competitions in the future, hopefully he can.

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