Last year’s Tour de France Grand Départ might have been hailed as a roaring success, but it left a £1m hole in the pockets of Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY), the tourism agency that organised and promoted the event.
An audit carried out by KPMG has revealed losses of £1,031,515 for 2014/15, a substantial chunk of which came in the form of unsold Tour merchandise - £750,000 worth of it.
The report, published in February but only now distributed to council members and detailed in the Northern Echo, outlines how Welcome to Yorkshire ordered an extra £600,000 of merchandise in the run-up to the event in order to plug a funding gap, only to later struggle to sell the products. Stock continued to be sold but by the end of January they still had over £500,000 left over.
On top of that, organising costs for the two-day Yorkshire start to the Tour are recorded as being £241,000 over budget, while it was stated that WTY owed the ASO €310,000 for marketing expenditure, due to be paid by the end of 2015.
WTY insists its finances are now in good shape and full accounts for 2014-15 will be published in December. Despite the losses for the tourism body, the visit of the Tour de France was an unqualified success for the regional economy as a while, with an estimated £102m generated and 2.3 million people watching from the roadside.
WTY responded to the leaked KPMG report and said that things are looking healthy for them, and also claim that tourist numbers in the region are up since the visit. "As of the end of August 2015 Welcome to Yorkshire is on track to deliver a modest surplus for the 2015/16 financial year. The Welcome to Yorkshire Board and Local Authorities backed us to deliver the Grand Départ and they were delighted with the result. We continue to have great support from our Local Authority partners. WTY is a not for profit organisation. Everything we do is purely to make Yorkshire bigger and better. Any surplus that we make is reinvested into our work promoting Yorkshire."
WTY received a blow earlier this month as its bid to expand the Tour de Yorkshire from three days to four was turned down by British Cycling. The race, set up as a legacy for the Grand Départ and backed by ASO, had its inaugural edition this May and also has plans to make the step from 2.1 classification to WorldTour.
WTY chief executive Gary Verity, who received a knighthood this year in the Queen’s birthday honours, remains ambitious and is planning a bid to bring the UCI Road World Championships to the region in the near future.