Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by London Marathon


  1.  The London Marathon was first run on 29 March 1981 having been founded in 1980 by Chris Brasher and John Disley. The then GLC leader, Sir Horace Cutler, agreed to the race going ahead adding the proviso that: "You never ask the ratepayers to bail you out. Not a penny from the ratepayers."

  2.  As a result the race was set up with a unique structure for a major city marathon with a charity being established, The London Marathon Charitable Trust Limited (LMCT) as a holding company for the operating company, The London Marathon Limited (LML). All of the profits of the race, and other events and commercial activities, are passed annually to LMCT for its charitable purposes, the provision of recreational facilities in Greater London.

  3.  The founders devised six aims for the London Marathon:

  3.1  To improve the overall standard and status of British Marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international competition.

  3.2  To show to mankind that, on occasions, the Family of Man can be united.

  3.3  To raise money for the provision of recreational facilities in London.

  3.4  To help London tourism.

  3.5  To prove that when it comes to organising major events, "Britain is best".

  3.6  To have fun and provide some happiness and sense of achievement in a troubled world.

  4.  In 1981 some 20,000 people wanted to take part and of the 7,747 accepted there were 6,255 finishers. Since then there have been over 400,000 finishers and the event is now so oversubscribed that it has to reject over 50,000 applicants each year.

  5.  In 2000, independent research showed that runners in that year's event raised over £24 million for their favourite good causes. Further independent research revealed that the race generated over £63 million worth of economic activity over half of which was in London.

  6.  The event is now recognised as being the world's leading city centre marathon and is proud of the fact that it remains the only one to have never cost its citizens money and that it continues to donate all of its profits to recreational facilities.


  7.  LMCT is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. Its members are the founders, Chris Brasher and John Disley, the Association of London Government, Amateur Athletic Association of England, UK Athletics and Sport England.

  8.  There are 13 trustees of the LMCT and these currently are:

  8.1  Sir James Swaffield CBE—Chairman.

  8.2  John Austin MP—representative of the ALG.

  8.3  Chris Brasher CBE MA—President.

  8.4  Trevor Brooking CBE—Chairman of Sport England.

  8.5  Geoff Clarke FSCA—representative of AAA of E.

  8.6  James Clarke BEM—Chairman of LML.

  8.7  Lord Sebastian Coe OBE—President of AAA of E.

  8.8  John Disley CBE—Vice Chairman.

  8.9  Eileen Gray CBE—representative of the ALG.

  8.10  Sir Eddie Kulukundis OBE—co-opted.

  8.11  Dame Mary Peters CBE—nominee of the President of UKA.

  8.12  Bryan Smith—representative of AAA of E.

  8.13  Joyce Smith MBE—British runner of distinction.

  After recent meetings, it is likely that the Articles of Association will be amended shortly to add a further trustee who will be a nominee of the Mayor of London.

  9.  LML, which employs all of the staff and undertakes all operations regarding the event, has a board which is chosen by LMCT but by convention has allowed two representatives of local government and three from athletics. The race is organised by a management team headed by Nick Bitel, Chief Executive, and Dave Bedford, Race Director. The current directors of LML are:

  9.1  James Clarke BEM—Chairman.

  9.2  Geoff Clarke FSCA—nominated by AAA of E.

  9.3  John Disley CBE—co-founder.

  9.4  Bryan Smith—nominated by UKA.

  9.5  John Holland CBE JP DL—nominated by ALG.

  9.6  Chris Waterman—nominated by ALG.

  9.7  Mike Neighbour—nominated by AAA of E.

  9.8  John Spurling OBE—co-opted.

  After recent discussions it is likely that the GLA will nominate a new board member in addition to those current members.


  10.  Since 1981 LMCT has donated over £8 million for a variety of recreational projects across all 33 of the capital's boroughs. Particular emphasis has been given to helping those areas through which the race is run.

  11.  Until 1998, LMCT has no overall strategy for its donations with the Trustees meeting once a year to consider the many applications and having received reports on each proposal then deciding which to assist.

  12.  However, the advent of the Lottery has meant that more funds have become available for capital projects and LMCT has become an important resource for providing, in whole or in part, that portion of funding that has to be raised to allow for Lottery applications to succeed.

  13.  Furthermore, until 1996 the profits of LML were modest (£310,000 in year to September 1995), but subsequent to this profits had been growing considerably (£1.7 million in year to September 2000) and the Trustees of LMCT now have significant funds at their disposal on an annual basis although each year applications for grants exceed the funds available.

  14.  In 1998 LMCT decided that it ought to act in a more strategic fashion in distributing its funds and specifically it highlighted the urgent need to protect playing fields in London that were, and still are, being lost at an alarming rate. As a result it has at the last three grant meetings allocated money to help save playing fields under threat and also upgraded applications for funding which involve protection of playing fields. Since the advent of the Lottery had meant more capital being available for schemes the Trustees also considered that special consideration should be given to revenue or endowment funding of such schemes.

  15.  In April 1999, LMCT provided the London Playing Fields Society with the whole of the required funds to purchase the former Royal Naval College playing fields in Shooters Hill, Greenwich together with funds to cover initial losses and in 2000 provided all of the funds for the purchase of the former London Post Office playing fields in Fairlop (this is in the joint names of LMCT and LPFS).

  16.  The speed of action of LMCT and its partnership strategy has recently been held up as an example of best practice at a conference organised by Sport England. LMCT is continuing to search for suitable playing fields projects and is currently in discussions with National Playing Fields Association regarding a site in Greenwich. So far over £750,000 has been committed to the LMCT playing fields project.

  17.  LMCT believes that in order to fulfill the original aims of the founders of the London Marathon it is vital that adequate recreational facilities exist in Greater London. It has identified that in order to achieve this purpose LMCT should be taking a more active role in identifying the projects which meet its strategic purposes.


  18.  In 1999 Britain was bidding to host the World Athletics Championships in London in ether 2003 or 2005. There were however no facilities to show to the IAAF and the bid was therefore perceived to be lacking in any tangible evidence of structures or expertise. As a result, LML agreed to invite, and host, members of the IAAF Council to the 1999 Flora London Marathon. A number of Council members took up the invitation with LML meeting all of the associated costs.

  19.  We believe that the expertise shown in the organisation of the event was an important factor in persuading the IAAF that Britain has the technical ability necessary to organise a first rate World Athletics Championships.

  20.  LML has had tentative discussions with UKA about it being involved in the organisation of out of stadium athletics events (ie Marathons and Walks) for the Championships and LML would be sympathetic to requests for other assistance where it has expertise, for instance in such areas as volunteers, media or sponsorship.

  21.  LML has a good working relationship with UKA with which it has a number of joint projects. LML and UKA currently have a joint series of endurance development races and LML provides funds to help endurance athletes (selected jointly with UKA) who are not in receipt of Lottery funding with training, travel and healthcare. LML have also seconded a senior member of its staff on a part-time basis to UKA to run a high performance centre in South London and has in the past seconded staff to UKA's press department.

  22.  This kind of possible involvement of LML in the 2005 World Athletics Championships is seen as an extension of its partnership work with UKA.


  23.  By contrast, the potential involvement of LMCT in the funding of running of the legacy stadium is part of its work in the provision of recreational facilities in Greater London and has nothing to do with any involvement in the World Athletics Championships. The Championships are an elite event which would not qualify for support under the LMCT charitable objects.

  24.  The Board of LML considered the possible involvement in the running of the Stadium at Picketts Lock post World Championships after learning of the difficulties that Lee Valley Regional Park and UKA were having in finding a solution for the long term use of the Stadium. After considering the feasibility study carried out by Ernst & Young and the report of Drivers Jonas, the Board of LML recommended to the Trustees of LMCT that it should agree to provide revenue funding for the legacy use of the Stadium.

  25.  There were many reasons considered by LML in reaching its decision but essentially these were as follows:

  25.1  LML noted that the City of Manchester Stadium being built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games was to have its track removed after the Games and was then to be handed over to Manchester City as a private football ground. The Board was concerned that such a solution for Picketts Lock would fail to deliver any long-lasting recreational facilities for the people of London.

  25.2  The provision of athletics facilities in London is poor and over the last 30 years the number of tracks has been reduced and those that remain are often in a poor condition.

  25.3  Athletics facilities at Crystal Palace have been allowed to deteriorate and the track has previously faced closure through lack of support. Planning permission difficulties meant that it was very unlikely to be able to enhance the facilities.

  25.4  London has no indoor facilities of the type planned for Picketts Lock.

  25.5  There is currently nowhere in London that can host major athletics competitions such as the World or European Championships.

  25.6  There would be excellent community demand for use of the planned legacy facilities at Picketts Lock and although transport links were far from ideal, the stadium would be well used and was reasonably accessible for a large portion of the population of North London.

  25.7  Major international sporting events that are held in Britain should provide a lasting community benefit and rather than a sports development legacy, which was the route favoured by some other major events, the facilities themselves were a more suitable legacy in this case.

  26.  Having considered all of these factors the Board of LML decided that the long term use of the proposed facilities was desirable and that to save such facilities fitted in well with the strategy that had in recent years been developed by LMCT with regard to playing fields.

  27.  LML also considered what would happen if it did not agree to assist with the revenue funding of the legacy use. Since no self-sustaining long term use had then been shown it was considered that there was a real risk of the project not receiving Lottery funding and therefore not proceeding. The Board of LML therefore considered that LMCT support was vital in leveraging Lottery funding and that this fitted in well with the strategy that had been developed by LMCT in recent years in this regard.

  28.  LML also considered that UKA has insufficient resources to meet the projected revenue shortfall and the same is true for AAA of E or any other athletics body in the UK other than LMCT.

  29.  The matter came before Trustees on the 13th December 2000 when the Trustees received the officers' report and agreed to further consider the proposal at its meeting on the 15th January 2001 there being insufficient time to consider the matter at the December meeting.

  30.  Prior to the January meeting, the Football Association reconsidered the development proposals for Wembley Stadium and the new Chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, consulted the Chief Executive of LML, Nick Bitel, among many others regarding the potential incorporation of athletics at the new Wembley Stadium.

  31.  Just prior to the January meeting, a message was received from Sir Rodney Walker to the effect that the Trustees should concentrate on the Picketts Lock project rather than Wembley and of course subsequently he announced on the 18th January 2001 that Wembley could not host the Championships and there would be no provision for athletics.


  32.  Trustees in reaching their decision will have to take account of a number of factors. Whilst support for the scheme was clearly within the charitable objects of the company the question still as to whether or not this was a good use of the profits generated by the event in the face of competing demands from a multitude of applications each year.

  33.  One trustee, at an early stage, expressed the view that LMCT should not be involved in the scheme, whether at Picketts Lock or elsewhere, since the Government having, in his view, pledged to bring the World Championships to Britain, should be providing all of the necessary funding. He also felt that, on the estimate of £600,000, the proportion of annual profits to be devoted was unreasonably large (see 37 and 38 below).

  34.  Other trustees felt differently and in particular it was stated that the proposed funding was nothing to do with the World Athletics Championships but related to the continuing legacy use of the facility and to this extent it was no different to the earlier policy decisions regarding revenue funding of playing fields.

  35.  The view was also expressed that whilst in a perfect world all recreational facilities would be fully government funded so should many of the schemes that were funded annually by LMCT. Just as with medical charities, the reality is that not every desirable or deserving cause can be publicly funded and that LMCT therefore had an important role to play in helping such schemes.

  36.  As to the amount of revenue support required for the new scheme, this was not certain as at the 15th January 2001 and the Trustees felt that without further detailed information they could not at this stage announce their support for a particular sum.

  37.  Any grant involved the reduction of money available to other schemes but even if a ceiling contribution of £600,000 was agreed this would still leave more than £1 million per annum for other grants which was vastly more than had been given annually in the first 16 years of the existence of LMCT.

  38.  Trustees were informed that if the track were to be owned by LMCT there would be further advantages. Firstly, as a registered charity, it would benefit substantially from rates rebates. Secondly, the trust had as its trustees representatives from all of the main potential interested parties from athletics, local government and, through Sport England, the Lottery and central government. This makes it an ideal vehicle for the control of the legacy stadium.

  39.  The Trustees discussed the matter in great detail and at length and as a result unanimously resolved as follows:

    "The Trustees note the present uncertainty as to the likely venue of the 2005 World Athletics Championships. The Trustees would like any such facility in London to be available for continued community use after those Championships.

    The Trustees are interested in the ongoing use of such facilities and will be discussing this further when that uncertainty has been resolved.

    We await a formal proposal and are willing to be involved in discussions leading to the making of that proposal."

  40.  As a result of this decision, the Trustees have authorised the Chief Executive, Nick Bitel, and the Secretary/Treasurer, David Golton, under the Vice-Chairman, John Disley, to enter into discussions with relevant bodies. Some discussions have already been held with Shaun Dawson, of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, and David Moorcroft of UK Athletics and further meetings are planned.

  41.  The next meeting of Trustees is 20 April 2001 by which time it is anticipated that proposals will be finalised although if they are available earlier a further meeting of Trustees will be convened.

January 2001

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Prepared 3 April 2001