Britain's Archer Grand Prix, scheduled for April 19, has been cancelled due to a lack of sponsorship funds. Questions that had arisen about the financial security and future of the event have been answered with this announcement.
"Undoubtedly the recession has been a major factor, but not necessarily the only factor," said Stuart Benstead, who has been an organiser of the race during its 52-year history.
Benstead explained that government regulation may be part of the reason the popular event on the Premier Calendar has been cancelled for 2009.
"It is particularly galling that arrangements had already been put in place for Thames Valley Police (TVP) to provide a motor-cycle escort team and our relationship with them has been first class," he said. "Nevertheless, the costs of this escort, together with the road closure order, would have been easily the biggest proportion of the whole budget.
"It is understandable that TVP treats all sporting events on the highway in the same way," he continued.
"It is a huge pity, however, that British Cycling and the road running and horse trial governing bodies have failed to persuade the government to introduce new legislation for alternative self-regulation safety measures for such events. So major charity road runs as well as cycle events have been lost.
"In fact TVP officers have told us that they would welcome such legislation so that they can concentrate on their mainstream duties.
Like many events that require major safety measures to be taken, cost becomes the major concern, especially if sponsorship pickings are slim. "The cost across the country is colossal, and almost 100 per cent of other major cycle races needing a police escort and/or road closure are now drawing their major financial support from Regional Development Authorities (RDA) or local authorities," he said.
Benstead then applied that scenario to the area his event is held in. "There is no wonder that all [major races] are situated from Lincoln to the north of England, or in Wales and Scotland," he said. "The Chilterns base for the Archer GP is unlikely to be perceived as in need of business or tourism support through sports sponsorship.
"I find this almost complete reliance by cycle sport on government-controlled funding very worrying indeed, whereas most other sports do have a core commercial sponsor for their domestic programme," he added. "The international side of cycling is well funded and this is justified by its success. But the domestic side, from where most of the Olympic and world champions have emerged, is very vulnerable indeed.
"We have approached a considerable range of companies without success, including a number within the cycle industry which has perhaps has not been hit so hard by the recession," said Benstead. "Some quote the cost of their sponsored teams, which presumably will now have the cost of having to go abroad that weekend for suitable quality racing."
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