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2024 Tour of Britain under threat as British Cycling removes agreement with organisers Sweetspot due to unpaid rights fees

The existence of the Tour of Britain’s men’s race beyond the current year is currently under significant threat due to a dispute between British Cycling and SweetSpot, the event’s promoters. British Cycling has made the drastic move of ending its contract with SweetSpot due to allegations of a substantial amount in unpaid rights fees, specifically cited to be around £700,000. Last year’s Tour of Britain was won by Wout van Aert and saw his teammate Olav Kooij win 4 stages in a row including into Wrexham.

The termination of the partnership casts doubt on the race’s future, potentially eliminating it from the 2024 calendar and thus impacting the schedules of the world’s elite riders and teams. British Cycling is urgently seeking a new promoter to avoid cancellation of the event.

A confidential memo circulated among British Cycling staff revealed the decision to cut ties with SweetSpot was made after the non-payment of the agreed rights fees. The Guardian learned of the financial specifics of the dispute and reported on it, the memo reportedly saying that SweetSpot has fallen behind on payments since 2022. SweetSpot has refrained from commenting publicly on the financial details or the nature of the conflict and is currently in discussions with British Cycling through legal channels.

The memo highlighted the rights fees as a crucial source of income for British Cycling, underlining the dire financial implications of the situation and its effect on the growth and investment in cycling.

In response to the unfolding events, Hugh Roberts, the CEO of the Tour of Britain with SweetSpot, remained upbeat about ongoing preparations for 2024, especially concerning the Women’s Tour, and remained hopeful about resolving the issues with British Cycling. Both the men’s and women’s races have experienced funding difficulties in the past year. Unlike the men’s race, British Cycling does not hold the rights to the Women’s Tour, which was cancelled in 2023 due to financial constraints. Similarly, the Tour Series of criterium races was called off due to broader economic challenges.

Last year’s men’s Tour of Britain did take place despite these difficulties, but it faced criticism for its uninspiring route. Race director Mick Bennett defended the decisions, indicating that critics may not appreciate the broader complexities faced by the organisers. Further complicating matters, British Cycling’s finances have been under pressure, as revealed in late October, with declining membership and lower revenues leading to staff redundancies. British Cycling’s CEO Jon Dutton conveyed the challenges faced in attracting new members and investment amid the current economic climate and cost-of-living crisis.

Main photo credit: SWpix