Sweetspot leaves sour taste

By Mal Butler Aug 11, 2023
Publicity shot for the final stage of the 2022 Tour of Britain

The IW Council has been left more than £350,000 out of pocket with the announcement that the Island will not host any stage of the Tour of Britain cycling event next year.

The final stage of the 2002 cycling event was due to be held on the Island, starting at Ryde and finishing at The Needles. However, it was cancelled following the death of Her Majesty the Queen last September, which meant trained police motorcycle outriders were recalled to the mainland.

The organisers, Sweetspot, did not have insurance cover covering the cancellation, claiming that the Covid pandemic had affected its ability to afford such insurance. There were no alternative protections for the council written into the contract, such as a guarantee that they could hold a future event.

The response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the IW Council earlier this year confirmed that council lawyers had not included the possibility of the death of the 96-year-old monarch in a risk analysis presented to councillors.

At the time a spokesman for Sweetspot said they could not refund any money, but negotiations were ongoing to host a future cycling event on the Island, which would give some financial concessions, although the infrastructure costs of hosting would again fall to the council. As well as spending £350,000 it is estimated that almost £100,000 officer time was spent on preparing for the event.

The Island is only suited to host the start or end of the race and a Council spokesman confirmed this week: “While we are keen to look at the options of considering a future stage, there are costs to consider in the context of the current financial position.

“We are keen to stage a future finish for the event rather than just a mid-week stage.

“Presently the 2024 finish has been secured, so we have a little more time to consider our options.” In January Sweetspot said that holding a stage of the tour on the Island in 2024 was its “preferred option”. No reason has been given for the change of heart.

There is a possibility that the council could sue Sweetspot for the return of the £250,000 fee paid to them. In February this year officers said it was “inappropriate to request any refunds at this stage” while negotiations about a future event were ongoing. They said that, until these were concluded, “we will not pursue any alternative course of action.”

Councillor Julie Jones-Evans said yesterday (Thursday): “To stage a finishing event would be the best outcome because it would present great economic opportunities for the whole Island. However, if that is not going to happen, we’ve got to look at all options, as this is public money.”

It had been hoped the Island would make around £4 million from the event by drawing in spectators.