A group of young runners from Tanna, sponsored by Island Property, who finished in 3rd place in the recent Premier Male Wilco Round Island Relay were left empty handed and very disappointed when they discovered, after the race had been run, that the publicly advertised VT100,000 prize money would not be awarded.

Jacob Karere, who is a long-time Island Property employee and coach of the Premier Male team, told Daily Post that after he told his employer that Wilco did not be pay the advertised third prize, the principal of Island Property, Douglas Patterson, made a VT100,000 to them.

The Island Property boss confirmed to the Daily Post that he went to speak with the Wilco management and was told by someone in the accounts department that “it was decided not to pay the third prize because only six teams ended up running in the Premier Male race”.

Mr Patterson then wrote twice to Wilco Manager Roger Nishai seeking an explanation, but received no acknowledgment or reply.

In his email, a copy of which was provided to the Daily Post, Mr Patterson wrote, “The relay race around Efate sponsored by Wilco has become a major event for many people, not just the runners. The Wilco owners are to be commended for continuing to sponsor this highly enjoyable community event that was originally sponsored by the former owners of Wilco.

“However, I submit to you that this last-minute decision not to award the 3rd place prize seriously undermines the community goodwill that you have deservedly earned from the people of Port Vila and Efate.

“I am asking you to re-consider this decision and to do what I hope you agree is the fair and reasonable thing to do in the circumstances – and that is to pay the 3rd prize as advertised by you, and as expected by the competing teams.”

Daily Post has also contacted Wilco to clarify the matter, seeking clarification on: the decision not to award cash prize to the runners who finished in 3rd place; whether this the first time this has happened; whether the participating teams were informed there wouldn’t be any prize for 3rd place before the event commenced and if it was just one team or were there other teams in other categories who finished 3rd and did not receive prizes as well.

In response Mr Nishai stated, “Yes, we confirm we did publicly advertise prize money of Vt200,000 — First Prize, Vt150,000 — Second Prize and Vt100,000 — Third Prize for both Premiere Male and Female Teams but under the following conditions, depending on the number of teams participating.”

He stated that in the event that there are 0 — 3 Teams, the award will only be for First Prize. If there are 4 — 6 Teams, the awards will only be for 1st and 2nd Prizes. And in the case of 7 — 10 Teams, the awards will be for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Prize to the three top teams.

“For the past two years, we only award a prize to the Premiere Female team because they have only three teams participating annually.

“This year is the first year that we only had six Premiere Male teams,” Mr Nishai added.

“Most of the teams participating last year and previous years did not take part this year, we had only six teams participating and that is the reason why we only gave two prizes this year – just the 1st and 2nd - according to our conditions mentioned.”

Island Property has sponsored at least one team in the Wilco Round Efate relay every year, except for last year, and have won the Premier Male race a number of times.

“We have always supported this event, particularly because it involves so many locals and all the villages around Efate,” said Mr Patterson.

“But you can understand the dismay of the runners. As far as I have been able to find out, nothing about the possibility of the third prize not being awarded was stated on the registration forms or in the pre-race briefing on the eve before the race, and we’re not sure when this decision was made.

“The problem is that it was apparently not announced or conveyed to any of the teams in advance of the race.”

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