‘Shambolic’, ‘Disorganised’, ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘Embarrassing’ are just some of the words used to described the fiasco that was the 2014 SIG Insulation Sheffield Half Marathon. Today, the battle over who said and did what to ensure water supply to the event rages. Yesterday, the Chairman of the Trustees, Robert Jackson, for the event has said that if refunds are given to every runner then the company would go bust and there would be no future half marathon in the city.
Is this what we want to have happen?
I have run many half marathons, from quiet local events to major city races and this is the first time I have seen something like this happen. It was incredible and the back lash has been vocal across all aspects of social media, through the press both locally and nationally. From the point of view of Sheffield, surely it is not good news. Yet, it has highlighted the superb support the public has for sport in this City.
Yes, an investigation should take place, with the potential for heads to roll. Yet, balance should also be applied. Without a future Sheffield Half Marathon, surely the City and the runners of Sheffield would suffer? Oh don’t get me wrong, those that ran, or didn’t, do deserve a full apology, a thorough and believable explanation that is delivered with honesty and empathy. Not the rubbish that is currently being spouted from the organisers, that is quite clearly reactive and poorly considered. From a PR point of view it is not getting any better, is it? Sometimes it is surely better to sit back, review what has happened, name the date that a full statement will be made. A statement that is considered, delivered with clear facts and can be justified. It may take a little longer for ‘money-back’ solutions to be thought through, as business economics should be applied and the future of the business and the event carefully considered, perhaps, with an argument in favour of survival.
Interestingly, I have meet with members of the organisation with regard to sponsoring the 2014 event. This took place with a Shoe Brand who were also interested in involvement – a joint arrangement was on the table. Yet, after one meeting, an exchange of emails we were so uncomfortable with the potential arrangement we just pulled away. We were being played against another, Brand sponsor, who also decided not to proceed (I do not know why although we continue to work with this brand on other running-activity). It definitely did not feel like we were entering into a partnership. Yet, with what has happened in the aftermath of the fiascos of the event , the media interviews, has merely reinforced a lack of any partnership or a joy of running. Sometimes you have to look at why people are involved in organising events like this. Sometimes I am convinced it is about their own kudos, not the joy of doing something great and not asking for anything in return. Perhaps, I read the situation wrongly, but I do trust my instinct and need to be convinced otherwise.
I understand the frustration of the runners, their families and supporters. They need answers and some sort of solution. Yet so does the business of the Half Marathon. We should not loose sight of how much the city would miss the event. The support out on the course was superb, acclaimed from so many quarters, of the help and water handed out by strangers and other local businesses. A story in itself. Just amazing!
It looks like a change in leadership needs to happen. Perhaps new blood is required, people that ‘do business’ and understand the changing community that is running. Not forgetting the impact of social media and instant news. We should also remember the clubs and organisations that each make sure the race happens. All volunteers, all there for the love of running and ‘giving’ something that is good for Sheffield-Sport. For many of these clubs and volunteers it is their way of giving back to a sport and a city they genuinely love. This should not be forgotten, nor should the support of the good folk of this city, many of whom have never run a half marathon yet turn out in their droves to cheer and clap the runners around the course (even handing out water).
Lastly, the impact of not having the race next year will dramatically affect the good causes that benefit from the runners raising thousands for charity. Now that would be a shame.
So in all of this, let’s keep the Sheffield Half Marathon alive, but not without clear solutions and explanations from the fiasco of 2014.
Let the Phoenix rise.
(All facts in this blog have been taken from News Releases in the Public Domain, such as the BBC Sheffield or the Sheffield Half Marathon website).