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Sportive organiser cites cycling industry’s “downfall” and sudden disappearance of loan offers as reasons for entering administration

Sportive HQ also claimed that it was asking for more riders to sign up just days before going bust in order to acquire more cash flow and stay afloat

British sportive and cycling event organiser Sportive HQ, which entered administration and left riders scrambling for refunds earlier this week, has cited the “downfall” of the cycling industry since the lockdown as well as sudden disappearances of loan offers as the reason for going bust, while also claiming that it was publicising more events hoping that more riders would enter and provide cash flow for the organisation to stay afloat.

The sportive organiser, quite popular with many cyclists in the UK, was forced to enter liquidation after suffering heavy losses through the pandemic and running out of personal funds.

On Thursday, it announced that all future sportives and rides will be cancelled, including the Flat 100, a 100-mile sportive in South Yorkshire scheduled to take place yesterday as well as the Lands End to John O’Groats, or LEJOG, from 30th June to 13th July — the latter costing £1,795 per participant.

Now, the organisation, formed by Matthew Porter in 2016, has shared a message on its Facebook page, citing a number of personal and industry factors that forced its hand into going under, the principal being the issues facing the cycling industry such as loss of sponsors and corporate backers.

> Scramble for refunds as cycling sportive organiser goes into administration after suffering heavy losses through the pandemic

Porter wrote that Sportive HQ organised the Coast to Coast ride in 2023 as a means to bounce back after the pandemic, with the company doing better than the previous year, and he focused on setting up collaborative marketing with other companies to “help each other out in a difficult market”.

He wrote: “The cycling industry on the whole was suffering a downfall, sponsors weren’t sponsoring events, corporates weren’t arranging corporate events. The only way for the industry on the whole, not just events was to help each other at little cost and sharing marketing databases so I spent my time setting deals up like this, trying to help the whole industry recover.

“A lot of people had stopped cycling so I started to do ‘back to cycling’ videos to help people return to cycling who were struggling, I’ve been there and thought I could help.”

However, he was faced with logistical problems, and then in late 2023, perhaps the final nail in Sportive HQ’s coffin came in the shape of losing loan offers.

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He wrote: “Stripe, the company that took care of the card processing started offering ‘card advances’. The way this works is that they look at your turnover and offer a loan based on that without credit checks, no fixed term, no accruing interest, just a fixed fee and admin fee, then they take 20 per cent of every incoming transaction until it’s paid back.

“In 2022 they offered £14k and I paid it back in 10 months. After it was paid back in 2023 our turnover had increased, they offered £20k, that was paid back in less than 8 months. Come December 2023 I was expecting them to offer close to £30k due to our increased turnover, it never came.

“The thing with it was you couldn’t ask for it or apply for it, you had to wait for it to be offered. I questioned it a few times and only came back with a response that they were restructuring and offers would come again in the future, keep checking your inbox. It never came.

“As I’ve always worked, I wanted Sportive HQ to provide a quality option in the market at the lowest cost possible, where others in the market had been cost cutting and shaving money off what they did, I looked to increase quality of what we were doing, yes it costs but it shows in what we did gives us good reviews and hopefully brings more entries the following year.

“Working on future income is always going to be a risky game but how else do you save a company that has been stripped out financially since the pandemic that was originally going to last three months but ended up lasting the best part of two years? When events had returned numbers were so low hardly any events company was breaking even, the hope, optimistically was that eventually we would get there.”

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When Sportive HQ announced that it would enter administration on Wednesday via an email to riders who’d signed up for its events, it kicked off a scramble for refunds as no information was provided on whether riders would receive their money back or not.

Further, there were some cyclists who were left confused and frustrated as to why was the company promoting its events and asking people to buy tickets, up until two days before going into administration.

Porter has offered an explanation for that, saying that he was hoping the added income from more riders would provide enough cash flow for the company to stay afloat.

He wrote: “Now people ask why we were promoting events right up to the eleventh hour? Well, I was trying to secure finance right up to the eleventh hour, those that I spoke to, I’m not naming names but they know who they were, genuinely trying to help. It was a cash flow crisis that hit us in the end, every option at my end maxed out unable to carry out the next event safely.

“If we had enough entries for further events like Lands End to John O’Groats 2025 then the short term cash flow crisis would of been averted… Why were the rider numbers not posted for Flat 100, they were ready to post, the work had been done but the money wasn’t in the bank to pay postage.

“If we’d got through this month then money for 2025 events would of started to come in and if the increase in numbers had continued like it did over the last 2 years then we might of seen a return to 2019 levels and got ourselves out of the whole situation once and for all.

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Cyclists have expressed their condolences and sympathies for the brand in comments under the Facebook post, with some even suggesting that if the company had informed riders of its struggles beforehand, they would’ve been happy to provide financial support.

Sportive HQ isn’t the first cycling company to go into administration this year. In February, electric cargo bike company Pedal Me was forced to go into administration after it failed to reach an agreement with HMRC over its debts.

Similar to Sportive HQ, Pedal Me’s founder Knowles also cited the difficulties imposed on the company in a post-pandemic world, as the disruption caused by Covid meant that its work disappeared overnight.

Just a week before that, Orange Bikes, one of the UK's mountain bike scene mainstays in frame manufacturing, fell victim to the turbulent times within the cycle industry, with the company and its other assets being put up for sale by administrators, who deemed it as “unable to continue trading” owing to its financial position.

However, the company was saved from permanent closure, after acquiring its frame manufacturing partner and “streamlining” business, adding that the move will “preserve jobs and reinforce the stability of the Orange brand”.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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mikegriz | 4 days ago
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It's with great disappointment that we acknowledge the cessation of trading of Sportive HQ, we have been associated with Matt and his business for a number of years. As is evident from the reaction on social media this unfortunate development profoundly impacts numerous stakeholders, including the riders and charities that have greatly benefited from their events over the years.
Our charity, Cyclists Fighting Cancer (CFC), had 45 riders, entered, and ready to participate in the Coast to Coast event on the 22nd June. This event alone had already raised over £15,000, a substantial amount for a small charity like CFC, which will need to be refunded. These funds are crucial for our ongoing support for children living with cancer across the UK.                                                                                                                                        Our hope now is that the cycling community can rally together to support CFC and other affected organisations during this challenging time. We hope to see new opportunities and partnerships arise, ensuring that the spirit of cyclists, cycling, and support for charities continues to thrive.
Mike Grisenthwaite CEO Cyclists Fighting Cancer

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