Clock ticking on bid to save Tour de Yorkshire

Businessman Robin Scott has admitted he is in a race against time to save the Tour de Yorkshire after acquiring the rights to the event.

Scott’s Silicon Dales company bought the rights among a number of Welcome To Yorkshire’s assets sold off by administrators this week, but he is yet to do more than exchange contact details with the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), which shares the contract for hosting the event, and has been unable to gauge their interest.

“For there to be a race in 2023, we need to have an agreement done very, very quickly,” Scott said. “Then 2024 will be the 10th anniversary of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire and we need to do something for that, definitely.

“The timing for 2023 is super tight… The question is really whether there is any appetite within the key stakeholders and also the wider Yorkshire community to get it back on. We know there is at a local level.”

The race has not taken place since 2019 – with the 2020 and 2021 editions postponed amid the pandemic and this year’s event called off due to financial concerns. Negotiations to extend a deal valid for one more edition petered out before Welcome To Yorkshire entered administration.

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Scott’s e-commerce company initially spoke to administrators in order to buy the Yorkshire.com domain but then pounced on the opportunity to add the tourism agency’s cycling assets on top.

That gives him the rights to an event which proved hugely popular in its short history – its five editions attracted crowds and coverage which many long-established races around the world could only dream of – but one which also consistently lost money.

Local councils became increasingly reluctant to make up the shortfall amid Welcome To Yorkshire’s woes, but Scott, a proud Yorkshireman who grew up close to Leyburn in Wensleydale, believes the race’s profile meant there were untapped sponsorship opportunities which can secure its long-term future.

“The shortfall last time was £1m but if you look at the size of the organisations who sponsor the race and the reach they get from it, that’s not an insurmountable hurdle,” he said. “Four key sponsors could easily cover that. The sponsorship in other events is considerably more than that for less reach.

“Local authorities were asked to pony up the money, but be realistic. Local authorities can barely afford health and social care so it’s not appropriate to ask them, but sponsors in the locality that directly benefits from the race would potentially be easier to source the funding from.”

Despite its popularity, the Tour’s fate appeared to have been sealed by Welcome To Yorkshire’s numerous woes. Former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, who was awarded a knighthood for landing the Tour de France in 2014, resigned in 2019 following allegations of bullying and misuse of expenses.

His successor James Mason left last October following an unspecified complaint, and in March administrators were called in.

However, Scott is determined to revive the race.

For that to happen in 2023, agreements would need be in place by July not only with ASO, British Cycling and local councils but also the dozens of contractors who deliver the event, and Scott plans to launch a major outreach campaign in the coming days to find potential partners.

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“We don’t want to sell false hope,” Scott said. “With the calendar pressure, it’s unlikely but we will try for 2023. All of that energy and effort would not be wasted because the safety net I’ve got in mind is we’ll definitely do something in 2024, with or without those key stakeholders.

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“It might be classic Yorkshire pessimism. We might need to wait for a period of time. But if we get lots of positive answers people can move very quickly when they want something to happen.”

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