Welcome to Yorkshire’s strategy to fund the elite international cycling event next May has emerged as it was revealed Yorkshire taxpayers are being asked to underwrite the event by up to £900,000 because race organiser ASO is no longer prepared to, despite standing to generate significant profits from the event.
A report to be considered by North Yorkshire County Council’s executive next Tuesday also states the tourism body’s sponsorship strategy will see it drop getting a ‘high figure’ headline sponsor to act as the main rights holder of the race and see businesses approached to become partners of the social values.
Welcome to Yorkshire have stated that, following a very difficult two years for all involved, the race needs to be seen as a genuine celebration of Yorkshire as opposed to just a bike race.
This will mean a much longer lead into the race with events celebrating Yorkshire’s culture, heritage, arts, crafts, food and drink with the race being the headline act of “nine months of activation”.
Nevertheless, the sponsorship strategy of highlighting the event’s values such as equality has already been questioned, with some critics highlighting how the event features a two-day race for women and a higher profile four-day race for men.
The unveiling of Welcome to Yorkshire’s proposals, which include aligning the Tour de Yorkshire with the value of diversity, comes just a week after Nic Diamini made headlines by becoming the first black South African to ride in the Tour de France, the pinnacle of what has been dubbed “the world’s whitest sport”.
Leader of the county council, Coun Carl Les, who is also a Welcome to Yorkshire board member, said the fresh approach to sponsorship along social value lines was “a very sound idea”.
He said the panel seeking sponsorship would be under the direction of former Sky Bet boss Richard Flint and had “a wealth of experience” in the area.
Coun Les said: “We know that it isn’t just a cycle race. It’s an event that promotes women’s cycling and is linked now to a cultural festival of Yorkshire. But the prime reason in the county council wanting to support it is the exposure it gives the county’s scenery and attractions to an international market.”
Asked to comment about whether ASO should underwrite the event as it stood to make profits, Coun Les said: “You could argue that. Clearly ASO don’t want to do that. The alternative then is to not hold the race and, bearing in mind that it is an important part of the cyclng calendar, but it can also serve as a great marketing too for the areas it goes through. It is worth our while to continue with the race.”
Leader of the authority’s Independent group, Coun Stuart Parsons, said staging a two-day women’s race and a four-day men’s event would “not promote equality in any way, shape or form”.
He said: “It would still be an elite cycling event. It is still not equality or diversity-conforming, it’s just paying lip service. If they are serious about it they need to be finding a way to adapt the event so it fits all those issues, such as holding disability races, and then produce something that’s absolutely amazing.
“This is a farce. It’s a very expensive publicity actvity and with nine local authorities each underwriting it by £100,000 it takes the pressure away from the organisers to actually get their act together.”