Further details relating to the cancellation of BOATS2020 have been revealed, causing many events professionals to raise questions about the future of the events industry.

At 6.34pm on September 10, on the eve of opening day, British Marine received the news from Southampton City Council that the show could no longer go ahead due to the rising risk of COVID-19 and growing Government fears.

The direction notice served by Southampton City Council in relation to the event can be viewed here.

Mark King, head of events at British Marine, organiser of Southampton International Boat Show and BOATS2020, took to LinkedIn to explain further.

He said: “BOATS2020 presented by Southampton International Boat Show was developed as a not for profit, COVID-19 secure event for the marine industry at the end of a challenging year. The plans were developed alongside Southampton City Council using the Events Industry Forum/DCMS Guidance, AEO All Secure Standard, and many other fantastic contributions from our contractors, exhibitors, and throughout the events industry.

“British Marine had been assured by Southampton City Council that BOATS2020 was in complete compliance with current UK Government guidelines as well as the new rules set to come into effect on September 14.

“These new rules required the BOATS2020 team to implement several additional measures overnight (including but not limited to increasing the number of dedicated COVID-19 Marshals, ordering additional ‘Rule of 6’ signage and recording ‘Rule of 6’ PA announcements), to make sure that the event was COVID-19 secure not just from September 14 (when the new rules come into effect) but from the minute the event opened on September 11.”

He continued: “However, despite this, it is understood that Southampton City Council’s last-minute decision to cancel the event was made after taking advice from their director of public health and was due to the perceived risk of an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“As a consequence, British Marine is appealing to the Secretary of State for Public Health and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport about the decision and the Direction under Regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection Regulations 2020 that was served to the event, to understand the options available to recompense British Marine exhibitors and stakeholders.”

The direction notice and the council’s move to cancel the event has sent ripples across the events industry. Understandably, it has made #eventprofs nervous and questions are being raised as to who is responsible for abortive costs. As one events professional commented: “How can anyone take a risk on putting on an event, when it can all be swiped from under their feet in hours before doors?”

Other events professionals would like to understand the rationale behind the notice, as without rationale it would be hard for an organiser to appeal. Interestingly, the regulations do not require any rationale to be stated.

Paragraph 12 of the directive states that the organiser can now appeal to the Magistrate Court whilst paragraph 13 clarifies that the organiser can appeal to the Secretary of State.