Following the conclusion of Stage 5 of the 2022 Tour of Britain, news broke that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had died. As the nation went in to mourning, many sporting events were cancelled, including the final three stages of the Tour of Britain.
Stage 8, the race's finale, was set to be the most spectacular to date with an uphill finish above the Needles on the Isle of Wight. In all likelihood, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) would have won the stage to take the overall title and perhaps all classification jerseys with it. Probably. But we'll never know.
However, what we do know – according to a report on the BBC – is that the loss of that stage has left the Isle of Wight Council £350,000 out of pocket.
The race had already been postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic before the rescheduled race was curtailed early.
The council told the BBC that the organiser has refused to provide a refund for costs incurred ahead of the event. Reportedly, organiser SweetSpot has not yet responded to requests by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) or the BBC to explain why £250,000 paid by Isle of Wight Council cannot be reimbursed.
The Isle of Wight council has said that its contract with the organiser stated that in the case of an extraordinary event beyond the control of either party – a so called "force majeure" – then it would be entitled to a refund of the host venue fees, after real costs had been deducted.
The council states that SweetSpot was suitably insured to allow for this to happen, according to the LDRS. But it added that the company had "made clear" that "it would not be in a position to refund any of the money".
Other payments had been made in anticipation of the Tour of Britain's first visit to the Island, including for road closure orders, marketing and public relations. Some fees were able to be recouped.
Even so, due to the last minute cancellation, the council still had to pay out £100,000 of public funds. Some sponsorship agreements covering costs had been agreed but were not possible when the event did not happen.
The council said a sum would be provided against a future cycling event on the Island. The council's corporate scrutiny committee is due to meet to consider the situation on 10th January.
All this is bad news for the Isle of Wight – in general and for its hopes of hosting the race at another time. Such disputes could lessen the likelihood of the Tour of Britain returning in the near-future, while any use of public money is, rightly, under greater scrutiny during a cost of living crisis.
Race organiser looking for solution: update 09/01/2023
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson from the Tour of Britain organiser told Cycling Weekly:
“We have been talking with the Isle of Wight Council since September’s cancellation about next steps, with our first, and preferred, option being to host a stage of a future edition of the Tour of Britain (2024) on the Island to replace the one that couldn’t take place in 2022.
“Given the excitement around the stage and huge amount of work over the previous two years that had gone into it, it would be a real shame if a stage of the Tour of Britain could not now take place on the Isle of Wight. Therefore, our hope is that we are able to agree to this with stakeholders following a long-scheduled meeting with them this week. If this agreement is not possible then we will discuss alternative options with colleagues from the Isle of Wight Council.
“Contingency cover in the event of a death of a senior member of the Royal Family has been prohibitively expensive and commercially unviable for some time, even more so following the crippling impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the events industry, which prevented us from running any of our races for nearly 700 days. As a result, insurance did not cover the enforced cancellation of the event following the passing of Her Majesty the Queen on Thursday 8th September 2022.”
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