Tour de Yorkshire 'more divisive than I could have imagined', admits tourism boss

Resurrecting the Tour de Yorkshire cycling race for 2022 is “worth fighting for” despite criticisms about its cost, tourism chief James Mason has said.

James Mason at the launch of the Tour de Yorkshire route in 2020. That year's race was cancelled due to the pandemic but it is hoped the event will return in 2022. Picture: Tony Johnson

Writing in The Yorkshire Post today, the Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive said the event had proved “more divisive than I could ever have imagined” following concerns about the use of taxpayers’ money for the event.

Mr Mason said the race costs over £2m to host and is funded by contributions from local authorities on the route, along with sponsorship and advertising.

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Nine local councils have agreed to collectively pay up to £900,000 extra this year if not enough sponsorship is forthcoming.

A recent meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard “most if not all” local authorities responsible for the next year’s start and finish towns and cities of Leyburn, Barnsley, Beverley, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Redcar and Skipton have agreed to pay race organiser ASO up to £100,000 extra each if Welcome to Yorkshire fails to raise sufficient sponsorship.

The tourism body approached the councils, which have also approved paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees to ASO, to help guarantee the event after the French media group firm stated it was no longer prepared to shoulder any potential losses despite standing to profit from it.

Mr Mason said it is still not certain the event, due to take place in May, will go ahead.

“The plan is to bring the event back to the county next spring,” he said.

“However, there is still a lot of work to do to finalise this and I believe it is something worth fighting for. I say fight because not everyone can see the value in the race or what it has achieved and will again.

"The Tour de Yorkshire seems to be an event that some people are quick to give their opinion on. It’s more divisive than I could ever have imagined.

"It’s understandable that making decisions to spend on such an event isn’t something that can be taken lightly.

Mr Mason said an economic impact report found the 2018 event brought £98m to the local economy. “Any argument for or against the race has to offer an alternative that can deliver the same impact,” he said.

Welcome to Yorkshire hopes to make the event “much more than a bike race”, Mr Mason said. He said the Tour will be part of a wider celebration of what Yorkshire has to offer.

“The four-day Tour de Yorkshire can be the conduit for our shared love of food and drink, with packed cafes and pubs enroute, but why not start the build-up now?

"We have an opportunity over the next nine months to really create a festival of Yorkshire that celebrates the region’s food, drink, arts, heritage, culture diversity, place and people with events all leading up to the culmination of that very special weekend of the May bank holiday.”

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