Woking in doubt for Halfords Tour Series

Local government spending cuts put squeeze on venues

Organisers of the UK's Halfords Tour Series have confirmed that local government spending cuts across Britain have put pressure on prospective venues for the event, but that the full 10-round series will still take place.

The financial pressure on councils was highlighted this week when Woking Borough Council announced that it faced a £50,000 shortfall in funding for the event. Woking has hosted a round of the series for the past two years, attracting 15,000 spectators to the town centre for the final round in 2010.

Peter Hodges, from Tour Series organisers SweetSpot, told BikeRadar that while Woking's position as a host was under threat, it faced similar challenges to other councils hoping to host the Series.

"Some councils seem to be more affected than others and equally all are rising to those challenges in different ways. Each situation is different but there are broader challenges that all rounds and all bike races around the world face," he said. "Woking is under threat, but that doesn't mean it won't happen."

Dates for the series were announced in October, with confirmation of the host venues for the 2011 expected shortly. Hodges pointed out that if Woking is forced to forfeit its place on the calendar this year, there would be no threat to the series as a whole.

"At the end of the day there are other towns and cities out there that want to host the Tour Series or the Tour of Britain, so it's not too major a problem but we'd obviously like to go back to Woking." he said. "Once all the 10 are sorted we can make an announcement, which, hopefully, shouldn't be too far away."

Hodges added that there was no ongoing threat to a venue's ability to re-join the series, should it be forced to skip a year. "With some venues we have ongoing agreements across more than one year, but other places they commit to a year and if it goes well they'll commit to the following year. Our approach is quite flexible."

In an effort to save its place on the series calendar, Woking Borough Council this week appealed to local businesses to help fill the shortfall. However, the Chief Executive of the Surrey Chambers of Commerce told the BBC that local small businesses were also facing financial pressure and would have difficulty justifying the cost.

"It's a good idea but there isn't that extra money in businesses to spend on additional activities," said Louise Punter. "It needs to be sponsored by somebody who's going to benefit in getting their name out to a wider audience than Woking."

Hodges echoed this sentiment, acknowledging that commercial sponsorship eased the burden on local government and would secure the future of cycling events. "If we can bring greater commercial support and sponsorship into the events that helps," he said. "For example, we have Halfords as the title sponsor and that helps everyone across all 10 of the events."

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