Organisers of the controversial Run to the Beat half-marathon still haven’t paid Greenwich Council the £10,000 they promised it for hosting the race, it’s emerged.
The council asked for a contribution “towards its sports legacy work” after agreeing that the borough would host the race for a sixth year, according to an answer given under the Freedom of Information Act.
It was the first time Greenwich had asked for money from IMG Worldwide, and the sum is due to rise to £20,000 if next year’s race gets the go-ahead.
But two months after September’s event ended in acrimony after runners complained about bottlenecks and poor organisation, the council is yet to receive a penny of that money, according to the FOI answer.
The event has long been mired in trouble, with residents complaining of poor information and upheavals; with IMG insisting on running the race on a circular route via Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich.
More recently, Greenwich Council chief executive Mary Ney has refused to investigate allegations of a conflict of interest surrounding leader Chris Roberts and the race. Roberts is chair of a charity, Greenwich Starting Blocks, which is given free places by IMG. The recent threatening voicemail featured Roberts insisting his administration decides whether 2014’s race takes place, rather than the one installed after May’s election, after which he has said he will stand down.
The links between Greenwich Starting Blocks and Run to the Beat have also been confirmed by the council. Over 1,000 places have been donated to the council charity since the first race in 2008.
But only a handful have actually been filled. In the race’s first year, 250 places were offered, and 144 were taken up. This figure slumped to 26 in 2009. In 2011, the number of free places was cut to 100 – but none of them were taken up.
Numbers rose off the back of last year’s Olympics, but this year, another 100 Run To The Beat places were donated by IMG, and Greenwich Council promoted them in its weekly propaganda paper, Greenwich Time (right). But again, none were taken up.
|Places donated||Places taken up|
Documents revealed during the licensing process showed that IMG was planning to double its donation to Greenwich Council to £20,000 next year – even though it’s far from certain that the event will go ahead.
Indeed, even at £20,000, it’s possible to argue Greenwich lets Run To The Beat have the borough’s streets cheaply – Royal Parks gets at least £10,000 for allowing it use of Greenwich Park alone.
And there’s no real destination for the cash other than “sports legacy work”.
But then again it’s paid nothing at all so far. “We need to think – well, what does this bring into the borough?,” cabinet member Maureen O’Mara said of the race last year. So far, that seems to be an unpaid bill, a heap of aggravation, and more questions about the council leader. How long will local councillors put up with it for?
11.55pm update: At tonight’s council meeting, Chris Roberts denied any knowledge of donations from RTTB to Greenwich Starting Blocks when questioned by opposition leader Spencer Drury. Deputy leader Peter Brooks said no decision had been made about 2014’s race, and “ward councillors might have something to say”. Poor quality audio below: