With 250-days-to-go until the UCI Road World Championships, all eyes will be on Yorkshire in September 2019, as it welcomes the best cyclists in the world for an eventful nine-days of elite racing.
The schedule for Yorkshire 2019 will be the first to integrate para-cycling as well as an inaugural Team Trial Mixed Relay event, as it aims to deliver the most inclusive and innovative Road World Championships in the history of the UCI event.
This will be the first time since 1982 that the UK has hosted the pinnacle event in the international road cycling calendar. Sport Industry Group sat down with Andy Hindley, (pictured left) Yorkshire 2019 CEO, to discuss the event’s inclusivity goals, and the challenge of playing host to over three million non-ticket holding spectators.
In recent years, Yorkshire has built a strong association with road cycling, linked in to a regional tourism drive. Why does cycling make sense as a platform for the region?
If you look at the size of Yorkshire, it’s absolutely huge. In the east, it’s flat for a fast ride over long distances. Over in the south in the Dales, on the edge of the Peak District, you get constant hills and very little, if any flat. You can really test yourself.
It’s a natural amphitheatre and terrain. You have an opportunity to ride in some beautiful countryside within multiple national parks. There’s also something for everybody, with award-winning restaurants, fantastic shopping opportunities and wonderful places to stay.
The Grand Départ in 2014 was when it really kicked off (here), followed by the Tour de Yorkshire off the back of that, which became an annual event and expanded to become four days for men and two days for women.
Welcome to Yorkshire is essentially about promoting the county globally. This (UCI World Championships, Yorkshire 2019) will be a cost-effective way to put Yorkshire, not just cycling, on the global map.
Look at the number of people that cycle, whether in the UK or globally. You have those (fans) with a slight interest in cycling and would watch it on television, and also participants who own or ride a bicycle, either for sport or a commute. That’s your fanbase. When you start to analyse those statistics, the audience is huge.
You’ve also got to remember that it’s free to come and watch these top-class athletes, seeing the world’s best. So as a tourist organiser looking to promote Yorkshire, there’s a phenomenal opportunity. It makes perfect sense for an organisation like Welcome to Yorkshire to use it as a vehicle.
To what extent were the Tour de France Grand Départ and Tour de Yorkshire dress rehearsals for this one?
As tour events, they obviously move very quickly from destination to destination. They’ll come into town, set up, do their stuff and then pack up later that day and are then gone. It has a very short impact on a town. [With the UCI World Championships we are going to have nine days of competition in Harrogate. That’s not what they’ve experienced before.
Were the organisers of the grand départ surprised by the turnout? Yes, absolutely blown away by the number of people that showed up (4 million). They experienced huge numbers and that’s been repeated with the Tour de Yorkshire. (2.6 million spectators in 2018).
There are elements that cross over, so the first thing we did was go to the Tour de Yorkshire guys and ended up seconding a few (staff) because they have that experience and knowledge. They’ve been brilliant at holding their hands up to say where they may have screwed something up and how they could fix that.
How useful have you found the UK Sport knowledge transfer programmes?
There was one held recently at Wembley Stadium, with the likes of The FA, ICC Cricket World Cup, Rugby League World Cup, Hockey World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cup present. It’s great to have a forum to share experiences across areas such as supplier engagement, contractors, and various operational challenges.
But we have one big difference from the others in that we don’t sell tickets. We do have a hospitality offering, but apart from that, it’s free. So, where some have the issue of selling tickets, our issue is 3.2 million people are expected to come.
Take the Commonwealth Games for instance, it has an estimated 1.1 million tickets to sell. It’s a headache but it brings quite a lot of revenue and generally means you control the space. You know who is coming, but we don’t have that data to help us.
We are expecting 3.2 million people, which in spectator numbers, is around three times the number of the Commonwealth Games. We don’t know when they are coming, where they are coming from, how they are going to travel, how long they’ll stay, how old they are or anything about their demographic.
At least if you sign for an electronic ticket, firstly you get an email address and an insight into your audience, where they are from, etc. So at least you then know how many people are coming in on this day from this location to this area. That all feeds in to your traffic management.
It’s obviously a big challenge in a world where data is now so valuable to event organisers. How do you get around that? Well, you’ve got to entice people to provide you with information. You create an app, supply special information that people wouldn’t be able to get hold of unless they agree to sign up.
Is it possible to have a specific spectator target in mind?
There’s not a specific target and I guess the weather will play a massive part. We’ll have a lot of spectators that last weekend (28-29 September), but certainly midweek and the first weekend, if it’s sunny and warm and not chucking it down and really windy, it will impact.
The estimated 3.2 million is a big number, but it’s spread over nine days. As Sir Gary Verity (Welcome to Yorkshire CEO) said, a few thousand here and there adds up very quickly over nine days. It doesn’t always mean 3.2 million travelling on the roads and via plane to get there. Even those people that step out of the door as it passes by count.
What can spectators expect in terms of fan experience and engagement?
We just want to do everything well, what we call brilliant basics. If you get the basics wrong, you are screwed. We will focus on brilliant basics and build from that. Taking budget into consideration, we don’t have an endless pot of money, so where we can and it enhances experience, we’ll spend money.
If you achieve brilliant basics, people will come. Spectators just want to know, “Can I get there? Can I find out where I’m going when I’m there? Can I go to the toilet? Can I see the sport? Can I eat and drink there? Can I watch on TV if I can’t see it live? Are there things to do afterwards?”
Do you own any rights as Yorkshire 2019?
We own 10% of the commercial rights, but they are for our institutional partners, which are defined as non-commercial stakeholders. So, if you are a non-commercial stakeholder, you are classified as an institutional partner, DCMS, UK Sport, Welcome to Yorkshire, British Cycling, etc. The other 90% belongs to the UCI.
We’ve done a deal where we can create additional activities, called side events. We have rights within those additional activities which we will share with the UCI in return for revenue. So, community engagement programmes, mass-participation events, expos, concerts, forums, a properly managed fanzone, etc.
What are the revenue streams for Yorkshire 2019?
We are government funded, so we are an arms-length government body that’s wholly owned by an arms-length government body. We are a subsidiary of UK Sport and we then have a budget from DCMS and from National Lottery funding, with contributions from British Cycling and the rest raised commercially through side events.
Any revenue from food and beverage we keep, as well as hospitality sales revenue and merchandise. So, we have very limited commercial streams because we don’t have the commercial rights, for instance, TV is totally with the UCI.
How will you, as Yorkshire 2019, measure the economic and societal impact of the event?
It will be measured in your normal economic impact study, including average spend per person and average overnight sticky time, etc. as well as the long-term legacy, in terms of two years, five years and ten years’ time. You can’t measure legacy until a reasonable time afterwards.
We would also assess the number of spectators. Did people enjoy it and was the general feeling that this was a well organised, well attended and positive experience event?
Then there is an infrastructure legacy. We advise when requested to, but it’s run by British Cycling and Sport England.
The government also set aside another £15 million to invest in infrastructure for cycling and bike facilities. For instance, Doncaster has a new 1.1km closed circuit cycling track which is of a quality that can be used for international races, but also for young kids to train and ride safely on a road.
Was the inclusion of the Para disciplines driven by your side?
Yes, we pushed that through and got it signed off by the UCI to become a categorised race that meant it scored points towards qualifying for the Olympics in Tokyo. That was really important for us.
We are also a few days after the Para-cycling Road World Championships, which takes place in Holland. So, with their equipment already there, it makes sense for our participants.
There was no resistance at all from the UCI. In fact, in 2024, they have announced that they are to combine the para and road together, which has never been done before. So, we are a pre-cursor to that and set those ideas in motion.
We run the para-cycling first (at Yorkshire 19), because it’s really important that we get the exposure on the first day, to get that message across that this is an inclusive championship. It does place a lot of pressure on getting it right because there a lot of races, obviously including every classification. It’s a logistical nightmare, but we’ll make it work.