CanWest Games Athletes Continue to Await Prize Purse Payouts Twelve Weeks Out
After a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, the CanWest Games in Coquitlam, British Columbia returned under new ownership last July with an advertised CAD $105,500 prize purse, which arguably helped them attract big names in the sport, including eventual CanWest champions, three-time CrossFit Games athlete Chandler Smith and up-and-comer Anikha Greer.
But 12 weeks later, athletes still have not received their prize money and were told via email by organizer Mike McLean last week that their payments have been delayed until an undisclosed date.
The details: After initially promising a cash prize for the top 10 individual elite men and women—including $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third—athletes were told at the end of July that their payments would be paid out four to six weeks after the competition ended.
- “We are just waiting on the last couple of wire instructions from athletes, and we are also waiting on funds that have been held by our payment processor…We will be paying athletes hopefully during the week of Aug 15,” McLean wrote in an email on July 29 to Dana Paran, who placed ninth in the elite women’s division.
- August came and went, and on August 29, McLean informed all athletes via email that their winnings would be paid out “as a percentage of your total amount” over the course of three payments, slated to be paid on September 30 (25 percent), October 31 (25 percent) and November 30 (50 percent).
What happened next: Once again, September 30 hit and athletes still found themselves waiting for their cash prizes. The next day, on October 1, they received an email from McClean saying he and his team are unable to “fulfill the CanWest Games prize payout schedule I had communicated on August 30.” The email went on to say that it is still their “intention to fully honor the prize purse payout as soon as possible.”
- “So what happens now?…We are working on several different alternatives to make this happen but we don’t have a specific timeframe we are comfortable committing to. While I don’t have a timeline, I will commit to another update either when I have more clarity on the situation or by October 31 at the latest,” McLean wrote.
- McLean also explained in his email that the CanWest Games operated “at a substantial loss” last summer, that they have budgeted to break even without paying themselves, but that “actual revenues were well below expectations, and we incurred some unexpected last-minute expenses that magnified the loss.”
- He told the Morning Chalk Up that he feels he has two options: “shut things down and end up with substantial personal debt because of it, or try to soldier on.”
- He added: “We still believe in the direction we are going, and we believe in the future growth of the sport and the business opportunity that goes with that, so we are going to soldier on.”
What the athletes are saying: Fourth place men’s finisher, 20-year-old Jack Farlow—an up-and-coming two-time Semifinals athlete—said he and other athletes he has spoken with “all just think it’s sketchy.”
- “I’m waiting for $4,000,” he said, adding that as long as they pay him before next year’s event he would consider going back to the CanWest Games next summer.
- He added: “I appreciate what CanWest is doing for CrossFit in Canada, but at the same time this is wild.”
- Ninth place finisher Logan Ewing was less forgiving than Farlow, saying: “I have pretty much lost faith that I will see (the money) ever. I would 100 percent not go back if this isn’t handled soon. I enjoyed competing but it’s a headache to travel, and expensive…(I have) spoken with several (other athletes) and they’re all pretty upset, but hesitant to reach out at risk of blowback.”
- He added: “We were made a promise and myself and others really need that money for various reasons…We paid lots of money to go to Vancouver.”
- Finally, Paran said she gave CanWest the benefit of the doubt for a while, but at this point the organization “seems disorganized at best, fraudulent at worst…I want to alert other athletes thinking about competing at their events to allow them to make informed decisions going forward.”
The big picture: The CanWest situation highlights three major problems in the CrossFit competition climate today, one for the athletes, one for the organizers of the competitions, and one for the legitimacy of the sport.
- Athletes: It’s no secret that there are very few true professional athletes in the sport. Most Semifinals, and even Games-level athletes are just trying to make a modest living, often working part-time jobs, all the while training full-time in an effort to become the best they can be in their sport. Thus, a pay day at a competition, even if it’s just a few thousands dollars, can go a long way for an athlete looking to be able to train full-time. Thus, delayed payments and empty promises only add to their emotional and financial uncertainty, and ultimately their ability to become professional athletes.
- Organizers: It’s also no secret that running a CrossFit competition is a challenging financial business, even at the Semifinals level, which Semifinals organizers have been vocal about. So the questions become: Why are organizers, such as the CanWest Games team overpromising and underdelivering to the athletes?
The Sport: While on paper it looks as though there are more and more competition opportunities popping up with substantial prize purses, if these prize purses can’t be honored in a timely manner (or at all), it only serves to undermine the legitimacy of the sport, and prevent CrossFit from becoming a serious professional sport.