Competition

New CanWest Games Organizer Addresses Disgruntled Athletes Angered by Losing their 2020 Registration Fee

January 17, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Bold Photos by Shelly (instagram.com/boldphotosbyshelly)
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When the 2020 CanWest Games were canceled due to the global pandemic, the organizers of the British Columbia-based event emailed the athletes who had already paid their CA$220 registration fee (plus $30 for the online qualifier) informing them it would not be possible to give everyone a refund.

Their explanation: “If three out of 10 people request an immediate refund, CanWest will go bankrupt and there will not be a 2021, or any future event,” the email stated.

  • The announcement went on to explain many aspects of the event had already been paid for and were non-refundable, including the venue, athlete swag, travel and accommodations for the volunteer team, catering for the volunteers, security, the CanWest app, equipment, signage, and the CrossFit Sanctioning fee 
  • That being said, qualified 2020 athletes were given the option to keep their spot for a future event without having to re-qualify

What happened next: The CanWest Games were canceled once again in 2021, but three weeks ago, it was revealed they will return this summer with new organizers, Mike McLean, EJ Dockery and Ben Siepermann, who acquired the rights to use the CanWest Games name from the former owners.

  • The question on everyone’s mind: What is happening to our 2020 registration fees?
  • The answer: “CanWest’s new ownership acknowledges the financial commitment you may have made to participate in previous years. Unfortunately we’re unable to refund registration or provide credit for 2020. However, we’re working diligently to exceed expectations for 2022,” states the Frequently Asked Questions page on the CanWest Games website.

Athletes go berserk: CanWest’s Instagram page quickly became inundated with disgruntled athletes who paid their registration fee back in 2020 for an event that never happened. Some of the comments included:

  • “Do we seriously not get our refund back from 2020?”
  • “I’m so disappointed to hear that the over $400 our team has spent went down the drain.”
  • “Why would we give you more money to compete? You held our money for two years now and our qualifying spots are gone. No thanks.”
  • “Screw you guys for stealing everyone’s money. I’ll never compete with you again and will make sure I tell as many people as I can not to attend. What a cowardly act to post on Instagram that you are not honoring our money. The very least you could have emailed everyone to explain.”

Taylor Hall’s take: Taylor Hall, an athlete who was registered for the individual scaled division back in 2020, explained her frustration to the Morning Chalk Up.

  • “I felt like I was doing the right thing by allowing the company to keep my registration in exchange for a qualifying spot. We did our part to try to keep our gyms and the community afloat during the pandemic. I didn’t cancel my (gym) membership,” she said.
  • She added: “Once the new company came out over social media, I felt like I had been taken advantage of, amongst hundreds of other (participants). While I fully understand that the new owners are not responsible for the money, I would still like to see a solution for those who have paid.”

New organizers respond: McLean explained he and his business partners did not buy the company from previous CanWest Games organizers, nor does he have access to any of the registration details from 2020 or financial records, let alone cash, from the past. He and his two business partners simply “acquired the right to use the name” under CanFit Productions, a new company they started because they wanted to keep the popular event alive. 

  • “We acquired the rights (to use the CanWest Games name)… we didn’t buy the company. We got limited information from the previous owners,” he explained, adding that he decided to take on the event as a “passion project.”
  • “I competed (at the CanWest Games) a couple times, loved the event, felt like it wasn’t going to happen again, and I thought, ‘Someone’s gotta step up. It might as well be me,’” added McLean, a member of Semiahmoo Athletic Club in White Rock, British Columbia and one of the registered athletes from 2020 who lost his $220. 
  • That being said, he added he’s sympathetic to those who lost money and has “done my best to reach out to a ton of them over the past couple weeks and have a conversation (but) we can’t take on those liabilities… All I’m trying to do is allow the event to continue,” he added. 

In hindsight: McLean also admitted, if he could, he would have approached the situation differently when he announced the CanWest Games were coming back, so as to be more sensitive to those who paid registration fees in 2020 and never got to compete. 

  • “If I had to do the last three weeks over again, I probably would have chosen different wording that I did… I said that we had acquired the rights, and I naively assumed that everybody would just understand what that meant. Clearly I had a massive assumption there… which I regret, for sure,” he said. 

Moving forward: Despite the drama of the last three weeks, McLean said he has also received a ton of positive feedback. At least 90 percent of the feedback he has personally received has been positive, and this is what he and his business partners are focusing on in their preparation for making the 2022 CanWest Games a great event.

  • “We have so many cool things (planned)…We think it’s going to be really cool and it’s going to make Western Canadian CrossFitters proud,” he said.

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