April 22, 2020
To our teams,
I hope this update finds everyone safely and in good health. I understand it has been a few weeks since my last update to team contact(s) for the Alberta Champions Cup (“ACC”). Although I am still waiting on specific dates/timelines from several facilities, I did not want to postpone sending this update any longer given some of the unsubstantiated rumours pertaining to refunds that have come to my attention and should be addressed as soon as possible. In addition to this, moving forward I plan to send out status updates on a weekly basis and/or when specific dates/timelines have been confirmed and can be communicated to our teams.
Apart from a handful of teams whom we have left voicemails with, as of April 21, all teams have now been contacted individually by phone. If you have not received a phone call, kindly please check with the other contact listed on your team’s registration profile as outside of the aforementioned handful we have spoken directly with at least one of the listed contacts for all registered teams.
I) Status of Items Influencing Refunds for The Alberta Champions Cup
As previously communicated, outside of referee and arena coordinator wages, all other tournament related expenses were largely fully incurred prior to the cancellation of the ACC on March 23, 2020 (more details on this date below). Immediately after announcing the cancellation of the ACC, I began the process of contacting facilities for timelines on when refunds to our ice deposits could be expected. At the same time, I also contacted the various suppliers that were utilized to order tournament items including but not limited to, medals, trophies, champions rings (a new addition for 2020), player awards, and hockey pucks to inquire about the possibility of obtaining refunds on any open orders. Understandably, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most facilities/suppliers were either closed or operating with limited staff, so responses – especially those with any specificity – were exceedingly difficult to obtain.
With that being said, I can speak with more specificity/provide further details on the status of the following items:
An important clarification point that I would like to highlight here is that due to the size of the ACC, our facility rental agreements are handled a bit differently than the standard facility rental agreement that most team managers would be familiar with. The primary difference is that unlike booking ice for a team practice(s) or even that of an entire league over the course of a season , the ACC utilizes significantly larger quantities of ice over a finite and pre-defined three day period – in many cases booking out entire facilities for the duration of the weekend. And since 90%-95% of the ACC’s ice contracts are finalized 6-9 months in advance of the tournament (September-November 2019), one can easily see that for as much as the ACC relies on facilities to obtain large quantities of ice, facilities are also dependant on the ACC to fully utilize their facility for an entire weekend each April. As such, due to the significant interdependence that exists as well as the sheer scale of running a tournament that is of the magnitude of the ACC, we (as tournament organizers) must apply for and obtain a private special event permit from both the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary each year. These permits are in turn attached to our facility rental agreements with both private and public facilities in each city and surrounding area. Under normal circumstances this clarification point would have no relevance to registered teams and/or team managers, however, given the unprecedented situation brought on by COVID-19, these permits have become exceedingly relevant. This is because once the cancellation/return date that is stated within each facility rental agreement has passed, all ice deposits are considered non-refundable unless a situation that “is beyond the reasonable control of the licensee” (the ACC) arises, in which case the force majeure clause within the agreement(s) is triggered. There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic unequivocally meets this definition, however, based on the verbiage pertaining to the force majeure clauses within our agreement(s), it is technically not considered to be ‘triggered’ until our private special event permit has been cancelled/pulled by designated city officials.
As such, although we (as tournament organizers) announced the cancellation of the ACC on March 23, 2020, our event permits were not reviewed and formally cancelled/pulled by city officials until April 10th and April 14th for Edmonton and Calgary, respectively. Therefore, our ice deposits did not technically become refundable obligations for facilities to pay us until April 10/14, 2020.
Regarding amounts paid to the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary (60%), I have confirmed specific timelines for when refunds will be received (details below).
As for refunds from private facilities (40%), I have either confirmed specific timelines for when refunds will be received or have already received refunds from approximately 50% and I am still waiting on specifics from roughly 40% of the balance of ice deposits that are currently with private facilities. I have also been informed by one private facility, who represent the remaining 10%, that although they acknowledge our deposit is fully refundable, they are not sure at this time when they will be in a position to refund us, as they do not currently have the funds available. I will reframe from naming the facility at this time, as discussions with them have been very consistent and transparent to date. As such, I remain hopeful that we will receive the refund we are owed, even if it is not immediately clear amidst all the uncertainty that is currently present.
We have also received 20% of our ice booking refund from the City of Calgary and received confirmation that the remaining balance will be refunded in four separate installments between April 27-May 15, 2020. The unfortunate and entirely unforeseen downside to using a credit card to pay ice deposits is if refunds are only able to be processed via the same method that was used to pay the ice deposit initially, which is the case for refunds from the City of Calgary. Since the credit card(s) that were used have long since been paid off, I have reached out to both Visa and American Express, who have informed me that in order to transfer refunds to our corporate credit card(s) into cash, they must issue a cheque to credit the refund and mail it to us, which can take between 7-10 business days just to process the refund, neverminded the time it takes for the cheque to arrive in the mail. This of course is not ideal, as it only further delays when refunds can be issued to teams. As such, to avoid any additional delays, I have pre-emptively requested for facilities to process refunds via cheque or EFT rather than to our credit card(s) if possible. As mentioned previously, I am still waiting to hear from several facilities, which includes whether my requested refund method can be accommodated.
I understand that this entire credit card refund process may seem overly convoluted for a process that one would assume to be relatively straight forward. And I anticipate that there will in a likelihood be some who question or are skeptical of the validity of my above explanation.
As such, in order to both substantiate my explanation as well as address any skepticism that is held, I have attached a series of screenshots (see “2020.04.22 – Overview of Refunds to CC Process.pdf”), which conclusively show – from start to finish – what I have explained above regarding refunds that are processed to our corporate credit cards, including the remarkably frustrating time that is required in order to full collect the refunded balance. The attached document uses the 20% refund that was received from the City of Calgary as an example. Image 1 shows the refund from the city being returned to our corporate card on March 31, 2020. Image 2 shows American Express issuing a cheque to credit the refunded amount on April 8, 2020 (6-7 business days later). Image 3 is a copy of the physical cheque that was received in the mail and deposited into of bank account on April 21, 2020, while Image 4 further supports the amount and date of when the process of collecting the refund was effectively completed. As you will note, it took a full 21 days from when the City of Calgary processed our refund to the date we gained accessed to the funds. This should hopefully help to explain my noted frustrations with the timeliness of this process – hence why I have pre-emptively requested for facilities to process refund via cheque or EFT rather than to our corporate credit cards. ***Please note, the referenced attachment will only be included on the email to designated team contacts. For security purposes, it will not be included in any public postings of this letter on our website or social media feeds***
As of March 23, 2020, there was three open orders on ACC tournament items – open meaning that we had paid for between 60%-70% of the total order costs and were due to pay the remaining balance once production of the order was completed by the supplier(s). Similar to the above orders, I was not able to obtain a refund for what had already been paid on the open order. So effectively the only available option was to decide whether to write-off the entire order and what had been paid to date or to make payment on the remaining balance and make use of the orders in 2021 (if applicable). There are obvious pros & cons of both options, but thankfully there is still a few months before the trade assurance contract on the noted open orders expires.
The remaining scope of expenses incurred that have effectively become sunk cost(s) include salaries paid to employees between September 1, 2019 and March 15, 2020 as well as payments made in accordance with the terms of Chance Consulting Group’s purchase of the ACC, which has since been furloughed for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year.
From the onset of this unprecedented and unforeseen situation, I set out to ensure that my commitment to being forthright, transparent, and honest in my handling of this entire process is demonstrated through my actions and conduct towards every team registered in the ACC. And although I understand that the net effect of the above items does not serve to change or offset the refundable balance that teams are entitled to, it does impact the refundable balance that I am capable of delivering at this current time. I recognize that this fact will inevitably upset some of you, but in order to demonstrate my aforementioned commitment to each team, I must be forthright, transparent and honest in my communications – which includes delivering both good and bad news as it arises. I will only speak to what I can personally confirm and stand behind based on the information that I have available to me right now.
However, I can speak to the fact that parent company to the ACC, Chance Consulting Group, completed and filed an application for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) $40,000.00 term loan on April 17, 2020. At the time of writing this update, I have not received any communication on whether our application has been approved or declined, only that our application has been successfully received. The outcome of our CEBA application will be communicated on a future update once more is known. If approved, this amount will be entirely committed to refunding team registration fees.
Lastly, in addition to the cost conservation efforts communicated in my last update, all full-time staff (including myself) have been laid off effective March 31, 2020. Fortunately, my brother – Bridger Strong – whom some of you may have spoken to over the phone as well as my fiancé – Tessa Michaels – have extended their help on a pro-bono basis. However, even with their much-appreciated help, it cannot completely make up for the complete loss of the full and part-time staff that unfortunately had to be laid off in order to conserve costs during this difficult time. The most significant impact of this change is that my ability to respond to messages/emails on an individual basis has been severely restricted, which is likely very apparent to those who have reached out and/or attempted to contact the ACC over the past few weeks. I completely understand how the lack of timely responses from myself on the ACC’s behalf would be very frustrating to put up with. For this, I would like to extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to those who have not received responses to their individual messages – Outside of health and well-being of my family, there is nothing that is more important to me than ensuring events owned and operated by my company are done so in a manner consistent with the internal values held by the company and our vision for the future of our events, including the reputation we set out to create when acquired each event them in October 2018. And although my inability to respond to individual message as they come through is not congruent with the reputation we set out to create, I do hope that the level of detail included within this update helps to highlight all of the time, effort and avenues that I am tirelessly exploring in order to navigate this situation as effectively as possible.
II) What to Expect Between April 23-29, 2020
Based on the overall status of the various items outlined above my current expectation is to begin processing registration refunds in early May. With that being said, teams should expect for refunds to be issued in tranche payments (likely 2-3), which will coincide with the timing and amounts received on our ice booking deposits. The amount of each tranche will be communicated and confirmed with one of the listed team representatives prior to anything being issued.
In addition to the above, other items/tasks for team managers to expect/look for in the coming week include:
1) The Trivia Challenge will be open to any teams interested in participating.
2) Once the total number of entries has been determined, teams will be randomly split up into one massive bracket (like a March Madness NCAA Bracket).
3) On set dates (TBD) a link to a timed trivia questionnaire will be posted on the ACC website for each team and will be live for 12-hours.
4) During these 12-hours players from each team will be able to open the trivia challenge one time and must submit it before the timer runs out. Everything can be completed by players from the comfort of their own home on a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone device with internet access.
5) Each correctly answered question by a player will go towards their teams overall score.
6) After the 12-hour competition window has elapsed the total scores will be tallied between competing teams with the highest scoring team advancing to the next round of the bracket.
7) This process will be repeated each round with more challenging questions being introduced as the bracket progresses, one team is left standing – who will be crowned as champions of The Inaugural Alberta Champions Cup Trivia Challenge!
Lastly, I would like to once again reiterate how much I appreciate everyone’s continued support of The Alberta Champions Cup as well as your amiable understanding of the present situation and its unprecedented impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives, both professionally and personally.
(signed) "Matthew R. Strong"
Matthew R. Strong
President, Chance Consulting Group