Tourism boss warned Tour de Yorkshire 'would almost certainly' not return if 2022 event was cancelled

Before the 2022 Tour de Yorkshire was called off this week, the head of Yorkshire’s tourism board warned next year’s race would be cancelled if councils did not provide financial support and this “would almost certainly mean the end” of the cycling race.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason wrote to the chief executives of nine councils and said organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) could pull out if they did not each offer £100,000 of funding and agree to provide another £100,000 to cover a potential shortfall in sponsorship by June 23.

In a series of emails obtained by The Yorkshire Post, he also admitted the event had “not attracted the commercial sponsors that all parties would have hoped to achieve” in recent years and said it “has struggled to attract a headline sponsor”.

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He said ASO asked for a guarantee “to minimise the risk of financial loss to them” and while Welcome to Yorkshire has subsidised the race in recent years it is “not in a position to do so again”.

The 2022 Tour de Yorkshire has been cancelled and there are fears the race may not return

Six councils that run the regions of Yorkshire that were due to host the race, which was postponed by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, had agreed to financially support the 2022 event and provide an extra £100,000 to cover sponsorship losses. But Leeds, Calderdale and Kirklees councils had not made the same offer.

Welcome to Yorkshire is required to support the race until 2024, under the terms of a 10-year contract, and Mr Mason said while the tourism board supports the “fantastic event”, it has become a “financial drain”.

In one email, he wrote: “The current WTY (Welcome to Yorkshire) have inherited this and whilst we are fully supportive of the race and is a fantastic event which brings a huge amount of civic pride and economic activity to the region, it has never delivered a profit for WTY and in fact one could argue the financial drain on the organisation has created some of our challenges in recent years as the organisation has had to put in large chunks of its operational budget to cover the shortfall. We can no longer afford to do this.”

He added: “What we will be putting into the race is a huge amount of staff time, marketing collateral plus the hiring of additional staff to deliver the race, so we could quantify this as hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of value that we could attribute or divert towards other projects elsewhere if the race doesn’t go ahead.”

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason

After holding discussions with council bosses in June, he emailed North Yorkshire County Council chief executive Richard Flinton on June 16 and said the race would not go ahead if the local authority did not commit to providing financial support and underwriting sponsorship losses within seven days.

He wrote: “The cancellation of the 2022 race would almost certainly mean the end of the Tour de Yorkshire and any possibility of the return of the Tour de France Grand Depart to Yorkshire within the next 10 years.

“Our request is that you consider the position we are faced with, the value and wider economic and social benefits the Tour de Yorkshire brings to the county and the impact the Tour de Yorkshire and associated events will have in supporting the economic recovery of the region.”

In a joint announcement on Tuesday night, ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire said the 2022 race is unviable because of “escalating financial challenges and uncertainties” and “the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive key to bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire and establishing the Tour de Yorkshire

Separate sources have separately told The Yorkshire Post that one factor in the cancellation decision was a recent request from ASO, which also organises the Tour de France, for more funding.

No public money for the event had been handed over to Welcome to Yorkshire as payments were only due when the 2022 race was confirmed.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokeswoman said: "When James Mason wrote to the chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council on June 16 that was the position that Welcome To Yorkshire believed we were in with regard to the future of the Tour de Yorkshire.

"The response from our local authority partners throughout these discussions has always been positive and supportive of bringing the race to Yorkshire in 2022, but given the financial challenges of putting on the race coupled with the ongoing impact of the pandemic we were forced to make the decision not to go ahead with the race next year.

"However, these are detailed negotiations involving a number of partners and we are currently in discussions with Amaury Sport Organisation about the future of the race."

Welcome to Yorkshire has been attempting to rebuild its reputation since Sir Gary Verity resigned as chief executive in March 2019, amid allegations about his behaviour and use of expenses.

He was key to bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire and establishing the Tour de Yorkshire.

ASO has been contacted for a comment.