Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Xmas... Time for the Cole Classic...

An ocean swimmer has sent us an exchange of correspondence he had with the folk at Fairfax Meeja, operators of the Cole Classic. This punter wanted to enter both swims at the Cole at Manly on February 5, but when he tried to do so, he found there was no option for this. So he emailed them asking whether there was some way of doing it. A chap named Will emailed back. We quote...

You can only register for 1 swim at a time, if you would like to swim both 1km and 2km, you therefore have to register twice. Please note (as each name can only be in the system once) that if you would like to register for both events you enter your last name first as (Bloggs) and the second registration as Bloggs. (with a dot at the end). There is no combined swim pricing unfortunately.

Got that? (No mention of what happens to Bill Bloggs's entry if another Bill Bloggs has entered already -- and there are quite a few punters of common  names who take part in ocean swims in Sydney.)

It means that, to do both swims at the Cole Classic, you're up for $94 ($42 for the 1km and $52 for the 2km), if you enter by today (Friday, December 9).
After today, you're up for $114 ($52 and $62).

So what does your money get you?

Will wrote:

In return for your entry fee into The Sydney Morning Herald Cole Classic, you will receive: a finishers medal, a race pack (including one timing tag and one swimming cap), a finishing certificate (that can be downloaded from the website), water, Gatorade and fruit at the completion of the race along with a copy of The Sun-Herald newspaper. An event as large as The Sydney Morning Herald Cole Classic, is hugely expensive to organise and execute each year. Without the support of its sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, it would not be possible to run such a large community event. Representatives from Manly LSC help out on the day and they are given a donation in appreciation for their assistance.

... somewhat understating the value of the role of members of Manly LSC who "help out on the day", we'd have thought. We know that the Manly club contributes many hours of conscientious preparation to "help out on the day".

But let's do some quick maths. If the Cole gets 5,000 punters, and each pays $50 on average (the real amount will be much higher), then Fairfax Meeja makes $250,000 in entry revenue alone, not accounting for sponsorship funds and in-kind contributions. Out of that, they give around $25,000 to Manly Life Saving Club for putting the events on. As far as we can see, Fairfax gives no other money out of this event to charity, although they make a lot of noise about how much the event raises for charity (it's all money from you and your friends, not from Fairfax Meeja). They would pay Council and Waterways event fees, insurance, and to erect marquees, etc, and they would pay for various other services. But they make a killing out of the Cole.

Where does the money go? You all have a right to ask. The Cole family did all this -- and with much noicer style, too -- charging $35 for the main event, and while still covering all their costs including the donation to Manly LSC.

Add the Cole revenue to parallel takes from the fun run the day before the Cole, the City to Surf, the Half Marathon and Marathon, etc, etc, and it all adds up to a noice little earner for Fairfax Meeja. (We checked Fairfax's annual report two years back looking for some acquittal of all this, but couldn't find a mention. If it is there, perhaps someone could direct us to it.)

Certainly, you'd think Fairfax would be able to afford concessional entry for doing both swims...

When we included this comment in a recent emailout, we received immediate responses. One said,
I found the Fairfax staff equally rude last year – I tried to register from my work computer several times and every time it failed - after accessing the site and entering all of my details.

I tried a colleague’s computer with the same result and in desperation I rang Fairfax Events and after the customary time on hold I was told that I needed to have the latest version of some software and there was no other way of registering – that particular bit of software is not compatible with the filing system which we use here and at that point in time I did not have a home email running – so I gave up.

I suggest that Fairfax is ripping off the ocean swimming community and probably other communities for the other events they run.

I know that insurance is a significant cost but if Bilgola can run their swim for $25 and late entry fee $30 (only applicable after the eve of the event) – and make a profit for the SLSC then Fairfax with a comparable entry fee of $52/$62 – and from now on everyone is charged a late entry fee must be ripping us off. Fairfax is charging more than double the Bilgola fee.

Ocean swimming has done very well as an amateur sport utilising volunteers and supporting volunteer organisations. I cannot find any reason to support the introduction of “professionals” working for commercial organisations which are motivated by greed.

My personal protest is limited to not entering the event ever again but how about organising some sort of protest through your invaluable website which I have used extensively for many years?
We're not in a position to organise protests ourselves. We seek to provide a platform from which matters such as these can be raised and discussed. We hope to raise punters' awareness of issues overall. We would also like the many, many new ocean swimmers whom Fairfax is drawing into our sport that not all swims -- indeed, most swims -- are not run like this and cost significantly less to enter.


  1. Is it true that the Reserve Bank of Australia is lobbying to change the economic indicator CPI to include extra cost of living pressures for oceanswimmers.
    The new economic tool proposed is the COLE PRICE INDEX(CPI).
    The peach Farmer

  2. I agree... seems these extreme costs to put these events on are definately lining somebodys pocket a little heavier and deeper than they need to be.
    After all isn't about not only the enjoyment of competiting, but the freedom of ocean swimming.


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