Fans wishing to catch a glimpse of their heroes in major Belgian races could soon have to pay for the privilege, with more than half of race organisers saying that it is inevitable that they will have to introduce fees to make ends meet.
The survey of 22 Belgian race organisers by the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper found that half thought that charging spectators will be inevitable in the long term.
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The idea was especially popular among organisers of smaller races who are working with smaller budgets and are in a more precarious position with reliance on corporate sponsorship, VIPs, and subsidies for their income.
Flanders Classics, the organiser of the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and a number of other races, and KWC Hand in Hand vzw, the organisers of E3 Harelbeke, were two of those to say that they would not charge fans to watch races.
Rob Discart, from Tour of Belgium and Eneco Tour organisers Golazo, said that “a major change of mentality will be needed. People are so used to the course being free.”
That sentiment was echoed by Nick Nuyens, the former Tour of Flanders winner who is now organising the Dwars Door Het Hageland, who said that spectators should get used to other races following the example of Nokere-Koerse, a 1.HC race which charges fans €5 to watch the race in the final 30 kilometres.
“If I’m watching football with my children, everyone finds it normal that I have to pay €2.50. But if you want to see world class bike riders, it must be free. That’s weird.”
The paper is also running a poll of fan’s on its website, with 69 per cent of respondents against any charge for fans, while 28 per cent would be in favour of charges on certain key parts of races.