Sir Brendan Foster is urging the Government to step in to help save this yr’s main occasions like the Great North Run.
The founding father of the world well-known half-marathon says plans are in place to host this yr’s occasion on September 12, however due to the pandemic the insurance coverage it wants is unavailable.
“That’s a giant subject,” he says.
He has joined forces with MP Julian Knight – chairman of the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee – in calling upon the Government to step in and underwrite the danger of lockdown cancellations to keep away from the danger of extra main occasions following Glastonbury in deciding to pull the plug.
And time is of the essence, with spending already underneath manner on what is about to be a celebration of the Great North Run’s 40-year anniversary.
The Jarrow-born Olympian, who acquired a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours checklist final yr, mentioned: “We’re not asking for cash or funding.
“We’re not asking the Government to support the Great North Run.
“The Great North Run simply wants it to support the insurance coverage business in order that it could possibly cope with confidence and subject insurance coverage.”
In the current local weather insurance coverage corporations will not insure occasions. It’s a “market failure” says Julian Knight, including: “Insurance corporations have successfully left the market place.”
He desires to see in place a security web related to what occurred in the nineties when insurers wouldn’t present cowl towards the risk from terrorism. A Government-backed Pool Re insurance coverage firm was arrange and is since mentioned to have constructed up reserves of greater than £6bn and introduced in over £200m for the Treasury in the final yr.
Mr Knight mentioned the Government additionally did one thing related for the movie and TV business final yr, with the increase triggering financial exercise.
“We’re not asking for a hand-out,” he identified. “What we’re asking for is for them to assure insurance coverage in case a significant occasion like the Great North Run – the largest mass-participation sporting occasion in the world – is cancelled due to Covid.
“Just the prices could be lined by this insurance coverage.” But it will imply occasion organisers might press forward with this yr’s plans.
Other nations have taken motion to support the occasion business. Germany has put aside €2.5bn to cowl occasions cancelled due to the pandemic and the Netherlands adopted go well with with a 300m Euro fund.
Mr Knight mentioned it isn’t nearly our cultural and sporting occasions however the industries dependent upon them: the provide chain which in any other case might be going through a second yr with out work. But he’s remaining constructive.
“The vaccine programme is being so speedy I do not assume it is unrealistic to assume we might give you the option to have a Great North Run with largely regular numbers.”
Brendan Foster is delighted at such optimism. The disappointment at the cancellation of final yr’s run has been matched by the pleasure, from everybody from runners to the occasion companions, over its deliberate return – however he places the emphasis on ‘deliberate’.
They are actually ready to press “full steam forward” he mentioned and there is all the things from reserving athletes to TV protection, marquees, street closures and ordering tens of 1000’s of T-shirts and medals to take into consideration.
He says the run prices “multi-million” kilos to stage – whereas producing an financial affect of £31m; £24m of charity fund-raising and £12m in media and promoting – and he says: “When you propose an occasion like the Great North Run you clearly have to commit to an enormous quantity of expenditure earlier than it could possibly occur.”
He says no one can know what the pandemic state of affairs might be by the autumn but when it is such that mass gatherings might be allowed later this yr then occasion organisers will want to have insurance coverage in place and be ready to act.
“We’re asking the Government to stand as a backstop behind the insurance coverage business so we are able to take insurance coverage out,” he mentioned.
“All we’re saying is give us the hope.”
It’s not simply the Great North Run, he factors out, saying main occasions similar to Wimbledon and the London Marathon may very well be in the identical boat.
“We want to find out about insurance coverage as quickly as potential,” he mentioned.
“Unfortunately Glastonbury wanted to know earlier – it has to construct a village and could not take the danger – and it determined to cancel.
“We don’t need to do this. We are prepared with plans to stage the Great North Run – we simply want the Government to support the insurance coverage business.”
He harassed: “My hope is that the Great North Run will return this yr.” Its massive anniversary plans embody a movie about the occasion, which is being made now and which had to have an additional chapter added due to Covid, whereas in reply to a query about the chance of seeing the conventional Red Arrow fly-past this yr he mentioned: “That’s a part of what we might have to be committing to pretty early on.”
Mr Knight, who has been involved with the Chancellor and Secretary of State, is eager for the matter to be debated quickly and, with Budget day arising on March 3, he sees this date as “D Day”.
“A call can have to be made in subsequent few weeks”.
He added: “I perceive it may be tough, in the present circumstances, to assume six months forward but when we’re assured about the vaccine programme – which appears to be going nice weapons – and assured we are able to get folks in an outdoor place in comparatively massive numbers with out two metres social distancing in the second half of this yr – I feel it’s extremely, very probably – then we must always transfer heaven and earth to support these industries.”
And talking of the Great North Run’s cultural and neighborhood worth, he mentioned that for the occasion not to go forward in the yr after its founder acquired his knighthood could be “a tragedy”.