Friday, 9 April 2010

Charitable Change?

I've just watched Dispatches on Channel 4, which was about the London Marathon and allegedly where it's money does and doesn't go.. Just before the program, the London Marathon put out a press release - which you can read, the link is on this page. In a nutshell they claim the London Marathon (LM) company is making a lot of money from the LM every year and not giving it to charity.
I'd like to take a view on this but remove if I can the thoughts from this program and take my own personal view on this hugely popular event..
Every year they tell us it is over subscribed by 3 or 4 times... that's approximately 120,000 people trying to get in and only 30,000 actually do.. The cheapest entry is a ballot place - which this year would have cost £32.00. We know that LM is also a charity giving to local schemes up and down the country although this is never made very clear to us. We also know for a fact that charities pay LM £300 - yes.. three hundred pounds for every gold bold place they hand out...

Now - admittedly the LM has to make money to pay for staff, race costs, advertising, and blahdy blah... BUT they must make a lot!.. I mean - WHY charge charities at all?? please someone answer me this very simple question... as here is my addition to that last statement - it cost £32 for a ballot place... thirty two pounds... charge everyone the same!? Charities too if you have to - but £300?? come on?
In the pre race magazine we have also been told that future ballot places will also get phased out... only people that tried for ballot in 2009 AND 2010 are able to apply. So what will happen then? I'm annoyed to think that in this day and age we can still not put on a large event without stinging a charity.... think about it for a minute - what would YOU do?.. Let me give you a push, I'm thinking - those in rightfully are people that are good for age and elite.. the rest - give ALL the places to charity.. yes ALL of them.. and then get the charities to find runners.. charge the charities the entrance fee (£32) and they can ask the runner for this... now... the good part.. the charity will no longer need to ask you to raise £1500 or so.. and the good thing is every charity would get in on the act now.. that seems fair to me..Plus - why not have more runners?? Is that asking too much?
I'm sure (putting the program aside) that the LM earns plenty of money through sponsorship deals, £32 *30,000 = just short of £1m, and also the aid it is given by helpers who don't get paid (ie water station staff).

That to me is logic - that to me is a charitable change.. it might take programs like Dispatches the fear to do this but should it...?

On a footnote the program does include an interview with the London 10k organiser.. I again find this race very over priced at £29.50 - and I have to say very un-organised. The BUPA London 10k is about £25 too - and this begs the question are these events themselves getting over priced and forgetting what the real aim is - to keep fit and have fun.


Dispatches web page:

London Marathon press release:


  1. Thanks Claire - I didn't really want to comment on the program - I have always had inner feelings about this and felt it was time to air them.

  2. Great points Ray! I, as a charity place runner am really disappointed to find that they have to pay £300 per place- Its disturbing, I agree, if they charged everyone the same entry fee, more money could be raised for the charities. Tonights programme was too hush hush for my liking, not disclosing any details is just making me more suspicious.

  3. I think this programme missed the point, completely. There are indeed issues surrounding LM, transparency, charity places, ballots, gold bond places etc etc. Having said that, it's a pity the programme didn't allow LM to have its say.

    I am merely a dedicated runner of average ability who runs day in, day out in all seasons whatever the weather. I'd like to run a LM in the city where I live and work because I am a 'runner', not because I am a fund raising machine. There is a place for charities in LM, but let us not forget that frist and foremost it an event for runners. Alas, the spirit of the marathon is no more. I lament the loss of the soul of this event, for better or worse.

  4. @Marty.. yup - you are of course right and personally I think there is a lot of room for another similar long run in the capital - a change is needed and a more transparent one at that

  5. I have to say I agree with Marty, in that I don't think it the LM should give all spaces to charity.

    The first thing that needs to be decided is whether the LM is a charity event or not. Initially, it was not set up as one, so yes it HAS turned into a GREAT fundraising event but the aim and goals of the LM were not that initially, so I don't think you can make it one solely.

    An event of that magnitude and scale IS going to cost money to put on and the £32 fee for everyone is not going to cover cost, however, of course, like most people, charities shouldn't have to be in a position where they are thinking of potentially 'buying' advertising for places at £3k a go.

    There is ALWAYS going to be a struggle when a limited company set up AS A BUSINESS is dealing with charity. My solution would be to charge a set fee of say £35 for the average Joe. There is more demand for charity places, so make it AFFORDABLE, but either have an independant body allocating the spaces fairly OR set up a ballot system for the charities too and if you MUST charge a more substantial fee make it £100 for the charities. This means they're still getting money for the spaces and earning a profit in part to put ON the LM but it is more affordable. The charities could even ask runners to pay the £100 to run for them. I know a lot of people probably would.

    Essentially, its the allocation.

    My thoughts are that HALF of entries should go in a ballot for charity at a more affordable rate (it is NEVER gonna happen that charities pay the same as joe average). Charities should have to apply like the normal ballot entry system and be limited to a maximum of 25 entries. It would then be up to the charity whether to charge runners the fee or include it in their fundraising ask.

    The other half are entered into the normal ballot system, at £35 each. The MAJORITY of runners probably would fundraise on those normal ballot places anyway as it offers them the opportunity to do it without the big ask of a golden bond place.

    The problem lies within the LM trying to be a profit making company where those profits are being allocated to directors and charities. Theyre making a rod for their own back by trying to be seen to do something good.

    LM should be a organised by a limited company.
    Let the charities deal with allocating money.
    If the LM DOES make a profit and doesn't feel morally right in pocketing it (riiiight) - THEN donate that money to organised charities within sport or wherever they feel that money is best used after they've taken what they want from it. Be a business or a charity. The problem comes and people resent it when you try to do both and ending up doing them neither well.

    Think I might have a bit to say on this.... lol.

  6. The thing I found worse about the show, was the blocking of other events taking place. The fact that they appear to have directors that sit on various London councils who then actively block events getting off the ground is shocking. The threats about breaking copyright etc were quite alarming.

    It would be interesting to find out the reasons of the high event costs in London, is it the organsiers adding a premium or do police, councils and alike charge extra? It's not just running events that are expensive, last years Ldn triathlon charged £75 for a sprint event (shortest distance triathlon), very over priced and indeed was under subscribed, I believe for that reason.

    We have a great capital city, with a population that I believe want to get fit and healthy. What a shame this resource is wasted by the powers that be.

  7. Thanks guys - this makes an interesting discussion and after reading Valine's blog ( ) I'm tending to agree about the charities too.. make the whole thing more accessible to the public without the pressure of fund-raising.. a lot of people love to fund raise anyway and don't need a carrot.. I'd also be happier if the event was run by a government body or Sport England for instance.. this would make much more sense - I didn't realise the LM was run by a profit making company until this program :(

  8. We are all passionate about this subject because we care. I'm taking the program with a pinch of salt. As Marty says, it was very one sided. There are definatly issues and as they say no smoke without fire... But forgive me if this sounds ignorant but are there really any losers?

    I work in sales and 100% believe in supply and demand. If a company or charity can charge more they should. HOWEVER, this comes with some conditions. The distorbution of gold bond places needs to be fair and even and LM need prove their intention for the higher charge. That the money is being reinvested. I'm a gold bonded runner and actually thought my place cost Leukaemia CARE £400, not £300. It may not go to my charity but if it's helping in a round about way or going to another charity I'm fine with that. I've raised nearly £2K. That's £1,700 leukaemia CARE would not have if it wasn't for the LM.

    It's true loads of people want to run this event. And there should be a fair ballot system for none charity places. No question. But these Gold Bond places help manage the high demand. Could LM have another event or add more runners? Yes - I'm sure they could, (and should) but next year I won't ask for a charity place again. Raising that money was as hard - if not harder than the training has been! And so the batton gets passed to the next runner looking for participate in the worlds biggest fundraising event and do their bit. Supply and demand.

    Don't let this program make you think all the hard work training and fundraising means any less. This is an outstanding event that i am proud to be assosiated with.