Etape Caledonia - Where Does the Money Go?

Trevor Ward digs into numbers behind sportive where none of the entry fee goes to charity

by Trevor Ward   November 29, 2012  

Etape Caledonia 2010 - start. Photo by bcran, www.flickr.com

Entries for one of the UK’s most popular sportives – the Etape Caledonia – opened this week. Regular readers will remember this as being the “'charity' bike ride where no money goes to charity.

We should really give it its full title – the “Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Caledonia” – as the charity has paid £100,000 to be the event’s “official partner”.

But anyone who signed up at the event’s registration page this week would have been unaware of this – and it’s more relevant than you might think.

It means that if you decide to raise funds for Marie Curie through sponsorship, not all of what you donate will go towards cancer care nurses. A percentage of it will go to the organisers IMG, who are better known as one of the world’s richest sports and showbiz talent agencies. Some of your money could be used to help Justin Timberlake re-negotiate his record label contract.

Based on the fact that IMG’s previous charity partner, Macmillan Cancer Support, raised £1.25 million during its three year association with the event, it would be fair to say that roughly £1 in every £12 raised by riders for Marie Curie will be heading in the direction of a chrome and leather corporate office in Los Angeles rather than an underfunded hospice in the UK.

So what exactly does Marie Curie get for its £100,000? Here’s what Emma Pickles at IMG told me:

“Charities involved in partnering events in the Etape Series have collectively raised over £1.5 million for their cause. As charity partner to a successful cycling series, Marie Curie Cancer Care have a platform which engages with over 7,000 participants a year.

“Both IMG and Marie Curie Cancer Care share the same enthusiasm for cycling, enabling people to participate in fantastic events and raise money for our good cause.”

And the charity seems happy enough with the arrangement.  Sponsored riders raised £260,000 at this year’s event.  Spokeswoman Liz Ensor said:

“Marie Curie considers any investment of this kind very carefully and would not choose to invest unless there was a significant return for the charity and the patients and families it cares for, free of charge. 

“Whilst Marie Curie pays to be the official charity partner of the event, this investment delivers a significant six-figure return for the charity as well as raising awareness of its vital services, particularly to new audiences. Closed-road cycling events such as the Etape Caledonia require significant staffing, experience and expertise to successfully organise and manage.”

But if they are effectively paying IMG to “successfully organise and manage” the event, where does all that money from the entry fees go? Five thousand riders paying £63 each adds up to £315,000. None of that entry fee goes to the charity. 

Every penny goes to IMG - though you wouldn’t have known that if you’d signed up this week, as it’s not mentioned during the five-page registration process. 

Instead, you would have been invited to spend up to an additional £67.95 on official merchandise before you completed your registration. Needless to say, none of the proceeds from this merchandise go to the charity either.  (And no, that’s also not mentioned anywhere……)

IMG’s justification for keeping all of the entry fee is the “closed road” status of the event, and all the expensive council red tape, policing and marshaling that this entails. But a closer look at this year’s event, held in May, reveals some interesting facts.

For example, the local council, Perth and Kinross, charged IMG their standard rate of only £500 for the road closure order.

Tayside Police charged them only £2,262.60 for policing the event.

And most marshals were volunteers, being reimbursed “agreed travel expenses” only.

All of which leaves quite a tidy profit for IMG. But as Maria Sharapova – another of their clients – would probably confirm, they are in the business of making money, and very good at it too.

Of course, it’s quite possible none of the above will matter to most sportive riders. The thrill of riding one of the UK’s few “closed road” events will outweigh any concerns over how expensive the entry fee is, or whose pocket it ends up in.

But IMG’s Etape series is expanding. This year, they introduced the Etape Pennines – another 3,000 riders paying £61 each, none of which went to the charity – and next year will see a third event, the Etape Mercia.

(The UK’s only other major closed-road sportive, the Etape Cymru, is organised by Human Race Ltd, whose CEO Nick Rusling is a former manager at IMG)

Some riders are concerned that the sportive calendar is already at bursting point, and that a global giant like IMG is threatening the smaller, independent sportive organisers who may not be able to offer closed roads, but can charge a much smaller entry fee and guarantee that at least some of it will go to a good cause.

23 user comments

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This is journalism.

Daily Fail could learn something from this!

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
29th November 2012 - 17:20

12 Likes

Very interesting, thanks for the info.

Can't believe that a big company would charge a cancer charity £100k to be the 'partner' charity! Maybe I'm just naive.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3320 posts]
29th November 2012 - 17:36

13 Likes

This is remarkable. Thank you, a very interesting article.

I do not mind (a) organisers of events making money or (b) charity fund-raising. This seems to be an odd combination in which the charity subsidises substantial profits in the hope that the participants will, in addition to paying the substantial entry fee persuade friends and colleagues to give something to the charity.

Obviously Marie Curie are going into it with their eyes open, but it doesn't smell quite right and if it was in my fridge I think I'd bin it.

posted by BigDummy [296 posts]
29th November 2012 - 18:58

13 Likes

Hmm that is just strange. I would have expected a proportion to go to the charity. These things cost money obviously and commercial companies also need to make a profit - but not one penny being shared, weird.

Charities in general do seem to be doing different things to raise money and approaching it in a different way but stuff like this should be transparent at the point of payment.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [161 posts]
29th November 2012 - 19:01

12 Likes

Good article, Trever. Eye-opening.

posted by Sam1 [219 posts]
29th November 2012 - 19:15

10 Likes

Sounds like Marie Curie Cancer are placing a bet at 10:15 on.

If I'd entered thinking my fees were going to a good cause I think I'd be pretty hacked off to discover that's not the case. Thanks for a really informative expose.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
29th November 2012 - 19:24

12 Likes

No doubt a profit is made, how about painting the full picture and completing the story by finding out what profit IMG actually make, its OK saying they got charged £500 by the council, lets pick the smallest amount shall we, how about other costs, there is no mention of St John Ambulance, the Drinks & Food, the advertising of the event, the web site etc. etc. etc.

This is a one sided sensationalist article which could damage the event which won't help the sponsors will it !, now clearly we could find out that IMG make an 80% margin, in which case it's a complete disgrace, but we could also find out they make 2% (though I doubt that very much).

So lets stop having a go at them until we know exactly how much profit they make, I hate this type of reporting.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
29th November 2012 - 19:26

13 Likes

Can you let Marie Curie know I will organise the event for them and do it for a 50% discount, thanks

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
29th November 2012 - 21:43

11 Likes

mikeprytherch wrote:
No doubt a profit is made, how about painting the full picture and completing the story by finding out what profit IMG actually make, its OK saying they got charged £500 by the council, lets pick the smallest amount shall we, how about other costs, there is no mention of St John Ambulance, the Drinks & Food, the advertising of the event, the web site etc. etc. etc.

This is a one sided sensationalist article which could damage the event which won't help the sponsors will it !, now clearly we could find out that IMG make an 80% margin, in which case it's a complete disgrace, but we could also find out they make 2% (though I doubt that very much).

So lets stop having a go at them until we know exactly how much profit they make, I hate this type of reporting.

I agree that the figures could have been worked out better, but the article does say

"IMG’s justification for keeping all of the entry fee is the “closed road” status of the event, and all the expensive council red tape, policing and marshaling that this entails."

Things like the ambulance service, food&drink and marketing can never be that expensive as many other event organisers can arrange all this for far less money. So the profit will be closer to 80% than to 2%

Dutchie's picture

posted by Dutchie [52 posts]
29th November 2012 - 21:51

10 Likes

I read the Mails article and emailed the MS Society as they have a stake in this years event as I wanted to know how my £61 would be spent eg to IMG, I received the following reply

The race is being organised by IMG. The entrance fee goes to the company, while the money you raise will go to the MS Soceity. There is no minimum sponsorship as you would be getting your own place in the race. Let me know if you sign up and I can send you a fundraising pack. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Nice little earner for IMG. It does not justify it being a closed road event as they pay a flat fee for this.

posted by theincrediblebike [41 posts]
29th November 2012 - 23:23

16 Likes

"...it’s quite possible none of the above will matter to most sportive riders. The thrill of riding one of the UK’s few “closed road” events will outweigh any concerns over how expensive the entry fee is, or whose pocket it ends up in."

It might matter to individuals or it might not. But it's certainly disingenuous at best to make the association with the charity, to whom not a single one of your 6,100 pennies goes.
It smacks of misrepresentation. If none of the money goes to Marie Curie, it should be in the documentation somewhere.
It's the UK's most expensive sportive. You see Marie Curie in the name, you assume you're supporting the charity.
Cynical, cynical marketing.

Their facebook page is at
https://www.facebook.com/#!/EtapeSeries
Why don't you let them know what you think?

posted by nivagh [53 posts]
30th November 2012 - 23:07

12 Likes

Amazed at how little in relative terms the Police charge. Thanks for the journalism. Top marks Road.CC. Where there's money to be made the fleecers will follow and cycling is no different. My advice is to take the routine and ride it yourself with friends.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1072 posts]
30th November 2012 - 23:47

13 Likes

All the mainstream (old established) cycling clubs, have known for a long time that most Sportives are just rip offs of the newcomers to cycling.
They are aimed at, and obviously cater for judging by the numbers who ride them, newcomers who seem unable or unwilling to read a map or route instructions and think they are "racing".

For 100 years, traditional cycling clubs have been organising similar events, but under the name of "Reliability Trials" or "Audaxes". These events are run by volunteers in the clubs, and make virtually no profit, with entry fees typically £5 or so. Any tiny profit that is made goes into the cycling club for the benefit of cycling in general, not some corporate monolith having no interest in cycling. The "downside" if you can call it that is that you have to read a detailed route sheet, thus avoiding the cost of someone having to produce a lot of route signs and then go out, erect them one day and then remove them the next.

Most cycling clubs look enviously at the numbers of unattached cyclists attracted by sportives, but who seem unwilling to join a proper club. Perhaps that unwillingness is based on a fear that they would "not be good enough", or the clubs are "aloof", both of which are totally wrong.

Join your local cycling club and get so much more out of the sport for less money!
The British Cycling website lists clubs in your area, all of whom would welcome you with open arms, and YES you would be good enough!

http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/clubs for club info.

Binky

posted by davebinks [127 posts]
1st December 2012 - 9:56

12 Likes

There's a guy I know who runs Sportives on a profit basis, but claims they are for Charity. On being questioned he admits the that all the income from the entry fee goes to him. The only money that goes to charity is the extra money the entrant voluntarily chooses (if at all) to donate on top of the entry fee!

Binky

posted by davebinks [127 posts]
1st December 2012 - 10:12

12 Likes

+ 1

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [227 posts]
1st December 2012 - 10:37

13 Likes

hi dave
you say join a cycling club, two of us did and on our first (and i must say our last outing with them)my mate has a problem with his gears i stopped to give him a hand to sort it out, but not one person from the club stopped to help, so we didn't know which route they were taking, it didn't take long to rectify the problem but in that time they had all disappeared into the distance. hence we never went back Wink

posted by issacforce [205 posts]
1st December 2012 - 11:51

12 Likes

That's a shame Issacforce. Some clubs are a little disfunctional. It seems you've experienced one.

I would look at joining a larger club as they tend to have a group that caters for new comers: 30 miles or so at 14mph and no one left behind. Our club has one run by the older sportive riders. You get used to group riding and people will help fix stuff.

I will sound pompous here but being able to maintain bikes yourself is a common courtesy to other riders in clubs. They forgive poor legs but not poor bikes.

At this time of year it is a real pain to be out with even a friend with a mechanical. You're standing around getting colder and colder with them bent over their gears saying "Oh they've been slipping for weeks..."Mechanicals happen but we have a guy in our group that never looks after his bike, always has some problem and patience is wearing thin!

We're buying him Haynes book of bike Maintenance for Christmas. Maybe something for your mates stocking? Wink

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1072 posts]
1st December 2012 - 12:25

11 Likes

A great example of a local sportive supporting charities is the Catford CC who run the Hell of the Ashdown sportive. They pick a different charity each year and donated £10,000 from their entry fees to the event this year to the Save the Herne Hill Velodrome campaign. A significant amount for a small event and for the charity.

Cost to the charity? Nada. Just a few volunteers to help marshal.

posted by Skipinder [7 posts]
5th December 2012 - 15:22

14 Likes

Binky,
regarding clubs and sportives.
I did a sportive a year ago after a knee op as a target. A friend of mine does loads of these events, and seemed to enjoy them, so I had a go.
For the first few hours till the 65 mile route split off I was repeatedly passed by chain gangs in club colours. Every time bar one the third or fourth wheel in the line would push me off the road trying to hold the wheel ahead. Note these are empty country lanes where there is no need for the chain to swing in to the kerb, but nevertheless every time...
Second point, riding up the first long hill, I was astonished at the crest to see the group ahead chucking gel wrappers over their shoulders, often under the wheels or in the faces of those behind them. All in club colours. Just to make me laugh, someone in the local club posted a comment suggesting that sportives would make less mess if they banned non club riders, because club riding instilled strong values and skills that could not be learnt elsewhere. Ha! Mind you he'd never been a sportive and had picked up on a local news article.
And thirdly, having crested the hill onto a long descent which I ride regularly, myself and two others caught the group ahead. Just as we approached them, going considerably faster, the front of the line spread out across both lanes and started shouting 'downhill! downhill! ease up'. The 3 of us had to brake sharply, with nowhere to go. Needless to say we got past then made darn sure that lot didn't catch us.
Interestingly almost all the club riders were on the shorter route, and on the longer route I found the kind of camaraderie and friendliness that was missing earlier. Most of those riders not advertising clubs, most being in repro team kit.
I have to say Phoenix were the one club I did see members from who bucked the trend and were all courteous.

I'm not in a club, but that's not why. My local club prioritise time trialling, and although they do club runs, the races are their prime focus, and I ride for health and pleasure, not to come second to the club's BBAR contender.

I have been out on one club run, and I very rapidly got sick of being dropped on climbs, then having to brake on downhills having caught up. I'm not a climber, I'm tall and broad shouldered and I thrive on rolling roads, not mountains. When I punctured, they left me, and when I caught them up they just thought I'd bonked on a hill and walked. Then in the middle of the ride I found out why I was the only person with even a water bottle, when they spent an hour in a cafe. Looking at training data afterwards I'd run into the red zone on every climb, almost from the start, and that is not going to improve anyone's climbing. And just to prove the point I wasn't the only rider they did this to, there was another guy joining the ride from a different club, who was dropped regularly. Sadly he wasn't interesting in working with me, just using me as a wind shelter till he could drop me off. I went out and did the same route in similar conditions a week later and knocked almost an hour off the moving time, without red lining, and enjoyed it.

Looking around, clubs are frequently criticised for this sort of behaviour, call it 'you're not good enough to ride with us' or aloofness if you like, but it's definitely out there and well reported. You can;t just dismiss it or label it as one bad club. As I said above I saw one good club on a sportive, the other 20 or so were all badly behaved.
Note, I actually get on really well with one of the local clubs, and the club secretary understands why I'm not interested in joining, but am happy to contribute to the extended online community they have formed.

posted by robdaykin [160 posts]
6th December 2012 - 12:01

9 Likes

Aye, but how much do they have to pay in tacks?

(Somebody had to say it)

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
24th December 2012 - 11:36

8 Likes

I was considering signing up for the Etape Peninnes last year seeing as it starts about a mile from where I live but I thought £61 was far too pricey for a ride especially when I realised Marie Curie don't get any of the cash Sad

posted by Marauder [242 posts]
2nd January 2013 - 11:30

10 Likes

robdaykin wrote:
Binky,
regarding clubs and sportives.
I did a sportive a year ago after a knee op as a target. A friend of mine does loads of these events, and seemed to enjoy them, so I had a go.
For the first few hours till the 65 mile route split off I was repeatedly passed by chain gangs in club colours. Every time bar one the third or fourth wheel in the line would push me off the road trying to hold the wheel ahead. Note these are empty country lanes where there is no need for the chain to swing in to the kerb, but nevertheless every time...
Second point, riding up the first long hill, I was astonished at the crest to see the group ahead chucking gel wrappers over their shoulders, often under the wheels or in the faces of those behind them. All in club colours. Just to make me laugh, someone in the local club posted a comment suggesting that sportives would make less mess if they banned non club riders, because club riding instilled strong values and skills that could not be learnt elsewhere. Ha! Mind you he'd never been a sportive and had picked up on a local news article.
And thirdly, having crested the hill onto a long descent which I ride regularly, myself and two others caught the group ahead. Just as we approached them, going considerably faster, the front of the line spread out across both lanes and started shouting 'downhill! downhill! ease up'. The 3 of us had to brake sharply, with nowhere to go. Needless to say we got past then made darn sure that lot didn't catch us.
Interestingly almost all the club riders were on the shorter route, and on the longer route I found the kind of camaraderie and friendliness that was missing earlier. Most of those riders not advertising clubs, most being in repro team kit.
I have to say Phoenix were the one club I did see members from who bucked the trend and were all courteous.

I'm not in a club, but that's not why. My local club prioritise time trialling, and although they do club runs, the races are their prime focus, and I ride for health and pleasure, not to come second to the club's BBAR contender.

I have been out on one club run, and I very rapidly got sick of being dropped on climbs, then having to brake on downhills having caught up. I'm not a climber, I'm tall and broad shouldered and I thrive on rolling roads, not mountains. When I punctured, they left me, and when I caught them up they just thought I'd bonked on a hill and walked. Then in the middle of the ride I found out why I was the only person with even a water bottle, when they spent an hour in a cafe. Looking at training data afterwards I'd run into the red zone on every climb, almost from the start, and that is not going to improve anyone's climbing. And just to prove the point I wasn't the only rider they did this to, there was another guy joining the ride from a different club, who was dropped regularly. Sadly he wasn't interesting in working with me, just using me as a wind shelter till he could drop me off. I went out and did the same route in similar conditions a week later and knocked almost an hour off the moving time, without red lining, and enjoyed it.

Looking around, clubs are frequently criticised for this sort of behaviour, call it 'you're not good enough to ride with us' or aloofness if you like, but it's definitely out there and well reported. You can;t just dismiss it or label it as one bad club. As I said above I saw one good club on a sportive, the other 20 or so were all badly behaved.
Note, I actually get on really well with one of the local clubs, and the club secretary understands why I'm not interested in joining, but am happy to contribute to the extended online community they have formed.

Stories like this make me glad I found the club I did. We always stop for punctures, re-group at the top of climbs, and only stop for coffee at the end when it's personal choice whether to skip it and head for home. Very friendly bunch.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3320 posts]
2nd January 2013 - 12:06

10 Likes

Just do what my mate and I do - turn up and ride. They can't stop you from riding your bike on a road. then stick 30 quid or so into the charity.

posted by Nevis the cat [15 posts]
10th January 2013 - 15:05

9 Likes