Yorkshire MPs are calling on the government to help fund the region’s hosting of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2014. However, sports minister Hugh Robertson says Westminster cannot authorise money for it, which instead would be provided via UK Sport, the agency that yesterday provided £347 million to fund elite sport through to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Prior to Yorkshire being awarded the Grand Départ last week, UK Sport had backed a Scottish-led bid that would also have seen stages in England and Wales as the race headed south to the Channel Ports, with those proposals also having the support of British Cycling.
Yesterday, Yorkshire MPs united in Westminster Hall to congratulate the bid’s organisers on their success, and to appeal to the Government to stump up money towards hosting it, reports the Yorkshire Post.
Among them was Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg & Goole, who joked: “Being Yorkshire folk, we are a bit tight with our own money - so we would like some from the Government.”
Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, pointed out that when London hosted the Grand Départ five years ago, it was able to do so with the help of funds provided by then Mayor Ken Livingstone.
“It is estimated that the Tour brought £90 million to the capital and the South East,” said Mr Adams.
“It has been suggested that Yorkshire could benefit to the tune of over £100 million, and perhaps much more with the Government’s backing.”
Using an analogy from another sport closely associated with Yorkshire, Mr Adams went on: “I was disappointed to receive a straight bat from the Government when I raised the prospect of supporting Yorkshire’s bid in the House before the summer,” he said.
“I was a little more disappointed that UK Sport did not appear to want to engage with the bid - not even with a supportive letter.”
With a dig at UK Sport’s backing of the Scottish bid, he added: “It looks like UK Sport backed the wrong horse.”
Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley insisted that the government putting money towards Yorkshire hosting the race made economic sense.
“When we talk about investing money, the issue is the kind of return we will get.
“The event will be excellent value for money. For each pound put in, the multiples that we can get back for the local economy and tourism will be amazing.”
Despite the MPs’ appeals, Mr Robertson insisted that since the Government was not involved in how money raised via the National Lottery was distributed through UK Sport, it was unable to intervene.
“As it is lottery money, it does not lie within the Government’s remit to allocate it directly,” he explained.
“We can tell, and have told, UK Sport to increase the amount of money available [for major events]... but it does not lie in this or any other Government’s remit to then allocate that money to specific projects.”
Admitting that Yorkshire’s plans to host the race – two stages will take place in the region, with a third starting further south and finishing in London – Mr Robertson said that the important thing now it had been successful was for everyone to get behind it.
“I genuinely say this... I congratulate Yorkshire wholeheartedly on pulling off the bid,” said Mr Robertson.
“To me it does not matter whether people wish to engage with the Government when making bids; what matters is who wins at the end. I absolutely, 100 per cent congratulate Yorkshire on a stunning triumph.
“I may not have helped Yorkshire very much - I think my sole contribution was nearly standing on a Yorkshire terrier on the Champs-Elysées in July - but it was clear then, and in the way the bid was conducted, that Yorkshire was on to something that others possibly had not picked up.
“I wholeheartedly congratulate Yorkshire on that achievement.
“I will absolutely ensure that UK Sport engages proactively with the bid team. Now the bid is won, it is time for everybody to come together.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.