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Dispatches displays 'breathtaking ignorance', say London Marathon organisers

Dispatches displays 'breathtaking ignorance', say London Marathon organisers
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Dispatches displays 'breathtaking ignorance', say London Marathon organisers6

Fundraising | Niki May Young | 9 Apr 2010

The London Marathon Charitable Trust and the London Marathon Ltd have released a damning joint statement in response to a Channel 4 Dispatches programme to be aired tonight, which will claim that up to three-quarters of the funds raised last year by the world’s biggest annual fundraising event never reached good causes.

The report, 'Tracing the Marathon's Millions', to be aired tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm, investigates the 2009 London Marathon which hosted 36,000 participants.

It claims that three-quarters of the £17.8m received last year by the London Marathon Ltd, mainly from entry fees and advertising, was consumed in salaries and undisclosed costs and that the highest-paid employee last year received almost £250,000. Only £4.5m reached the London Marathon Charitable Trust, the programme claims.

The marathon organisers have retaliated by accusing Dispatches of “breathtaking ignorance”:

“The London Marathon Ltd and the London Marathon Charitable Trust Ltd totally deny any allegations of wrongdoing and are surprised and shocked at the lack of evidence presented by the programme's so-called investigative team to support this desperate attempt to undermine one of the world's finest sporting events,” said the organisers in advance of tonight's airing.

“In attacking the money that the London Marathon Ltd gives to its charity the programme displays breathtaking ignorance about the way charities trade to raise funds.

“Virtually every major charity in Britain has a separate trading company. Just like them the whole of the profit of our trading company goes to charity but only after the costs of putting on the event which include costs such as the expense of toilets, barriers, venue hire, staff, rent and all of the other costs of every year staging five world-class events, and putting on Britain's largest consumer fitness show.”

The programme comes just 16 days ahead of the 2010 London Marathon which is scheduled for 25 April. In 30 years 780,000 runners have taken part in the London Marathon and when the race is run later this month it will have helped to raise over half a billion pounds for thousands of charities.

Previously sponsored by Flora, the event is now sponsored by Virgin and is the single biggest annual fundraising event on the planet. But the Dispatches programme, investigated and presented by journalist Ben Laurance, also condemns the race for excluding “hundreds of desperate charities”.

While 20,000 £30 race entries are ballotted each year, those that miss out are forced to pay £300 per place. "Runners in these places are usually obliged to raise between £1,000 and £2,000 for the charity they represent," Dispatches will claim.

Charities speak up for London Marathon organisers

Jo Dyson, chair of the Event Management Forum, an Institute of Fundraising special interest group, stepped in to support the marathon organisers:

"The London Marathon is one of the most important days in the fundraising calendar for thousands of charities. We recognise that the London Marathon can never satisfy all of the demands from charities and the public for places and believe that in balancing the competing demands it has made the distribution of places as fair as can be in the circumstances."

The London Marathon claims that attempts to meet up with Dispatches had been “repeatedly rejected” along with requests for unedited space to say what they wanted on the programme.

“We have nothing to hide and all our financial activities, whether it is the actual organisation of the London Marathon, the distribution of grants from the London Marathon Charitable Trust or our relationships with charities and runners, are transparent and subject to intense scrutiny by independent organisations and approved by them,” they said.

Speaking to Civil Society, Channel4's spokesman Yad Luthra responded to the statement: "Channel 4 rejects the claims made in the London Marathon's recent statement. The programme has been made with the utmost professionalism by experienced journalists and we leave it to viewers who watch the programme to draw their own conclusions."

Image copyright: Adrian Purser

Stan Eldon MBE
Columnist
Reading Post
10 Apr 2010

A very good programme but possibly did not go far enough.
Why do charities have to pay £300 per entry? Why not allocate a number of places at the normal fee?
I have objected to the Gold Band principal since its inception and have been involved with a number of charities. I also organised the London Wheelchair race in the 1990's and started the Reading Half Marathon and organised it for 12 years. There are lots of questions over many events and their structures.

Abe Orchard
N/A
None
9 Apr 2010

I just can't find the annual report on the London Marathon's own website. How could I make up my own mind?

Carl Allen
none
none
9 Apr 2010

Cheap shot or not, our sector is not immune to media scrutiny.

Indeed, it can and should expect more scrutiny as it expands into delivery of public sector services, raises more funds through trading activities using its charity branding and calls for more philanthropy.

Peter Bass
Researcher
Freelance
9 Apr 2010

This seems like a pretty cheap shot. I wouldn't like to be a runner trying to raise sponsorship for this year's run.

It is true that the Marathon accounts are not very transparent, then there are very few charities that provide a detailed breakdown of income and expenditure for their trading companies.

I imagine the marathon is a very expensive event to stage,and SHOCK HORROR - a charity dares to have paid staff!

It would be interesting to see a comparison with the Great North Run which is run by a private company on a for-profit basis.

Carl Allen
none
none
9 Apr 2010

... "claim that up to three-quarters of the funds raised last year by the world’s biggest annual fundraising event never reached good causes."

But is it a fact, whatever the context?

David Connor
Managing Director
Coethica Limited
9 Apr 2010

I'm not that bothered about allocation of places but the suggested waste of very hard earned funds on administration requires questions to be transparently answered.

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