There's a lot of talk on the web heading into the cross season about preregistration in regards to day of registration fees and timing chips. Personally, I think before someone starts spouting off about what promoters should or shouldn't do, they should have to put on a couple of races. Once they've done that, they can understand what a time and money suck most race promotion is. Until then, they need to shut the hell up.
First things first. Let's talk about day of race late fees. Let me tell you why a promoter does it(it's not to roll in piles of cash before race day.) There are two reasons. One is pre-race cash for the promoter to get things done and the other is to get the race infrastructure ready to handle a cetain number of racers.
Pre-Reg helps a promoter come up with cash to pay for a lot of stuff. The larger the race, then the more need for the upfront cash. Quite often, parks departments, port-a-john rentals, flyer and form printing companies all require payment up front, or at the least, a sizable deposit. It also helps the promoter in case the weather turns and nobody shows up. There are untold amounts of expenses that pop up in promoting a race. Websites, flyers, insurance forms, flagging, barriers, land use fees, insurance, officials, shitters, signage, etc. etc.
If you are promoting a mtb race that goes over a bunch of different properties, that cash can be very important. If you are putting on a cross race that only deals with one property owner, then usually the deposit isn't too bad. In mtb and road, the weather will play a huge part in determining the rider turn out. In cross, short of locusts, the weather isn't too much to worry about. Cross racers are plenty excited about getting muddy and destroying their equipment.
One thing to remember though, is that the larger and more established the race, the less the promoters need the upfront cash and the more they want to get a handle on the number of racers so they can set up the infrastructure to deal with a large number of people. If everybody registers at the last minute, the amount of volunteers needed to help registration goes up exponentially. The hardest part of putting on a race is getting enough volunteers. You never have enough. Never.
Late registration penalties and and early registration discounts will never go away. There are too many reasons for a large amount of promoters to use them. That said, not all races and promoters will use them, because in their circumstance, they won't need to because their situation doesn't require a large outlay of cash up front and/or they won't need armies of volunteers.
Racers will always say that if their weren't late registration penalties, more racers would show up and race the day of. Promoters always say that they get less racers when they don't make offer a pre reg discount, because racers will flake out the day of if they haven't already paid their entry fees. They are probably both right, although promoters have years worth of event numbers to review, where the individual racer's opinion is slightly less objective and scientific.
Timing chips have no good side in cross races except that it's pretty cool to see your lap times. That said, they flat out suck. They lose racers all the time. If you get too close to the sensor that picks up the chip when you aren't racing, it screws the times of the racers that are on course up and potentially fucks your race as well. The officials still have to spend the better part of a couple of days going over the tapes and reviewing numbers to make the results even close to accurate. The Cross Crusade series used them for a couple years and the results were always messed up. The head officials would spend a couple of days emailing around looking for missing riders and responding to the emails of racers who didn't show up as on the right finishing lap. And they always had to go over the tapes manually. Stop trying to bring triathlon technology into cross.