Grassroots sports in spotlight after parkrun furore

iStock_runners
Share this content

In a week that saw a local council plan to charge runners for a normally free parkrun event, the government is consulting on whether to allow companies to sponsor grassroots sports.

Originally announced in the Autumn Statement last year, the Treasury is now consulting on how to expand support that can be given to grassroots sports through the corporation tax system.

It could mean that provided a contribution is made towards a recognised expense, the corporate entity will be entitled to tax relief.

However the ICAEW Tax Faculty has flagged up a number of issues, including what defines a grassroots organisation; whether the donation should be made to the organisation directly or via a governing body; whether there should there be a definitive list of allowable expenses for which the donation is made (pitches, equipment or coaches); and what reporting requirements need to be established to ensure there is no personal gain by the donor.

Consultation feedback is due in by 25 May.

Earlier this week Bristol’s Little Stoke parkrun was cancelled after Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted to impose a charge at the free-to-all community event.

In a statement the chair of the parish council said: “Parkrun are an organised group and like any other group using the facilities should contribute towards the maintenance.

“…when it comes to an organisation with paid directors, fund raisers and sponsors it would be unfair to expect the resident’s to pay.”

The council has given parkrun until 28 May to apply for a community grant to cover its contributions towards park maintenance.

Parkrun cancelled the upcoming Little Stoke run on 16 April to ensure safety and reacted to the decision in a blog post: “Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future.

“As a nation we must make a decision about whether we want to be healthier or not. The costs to all of us of inactivity and poor health are immense. parkrun has had enormous success at bringing communities together and promoting physical activity in safe and welcoming social environments,” parkrun chief operating officer Tom Williams said.

petition against the decision has since attracted more than 50,000 names and got the backing of the London Marathon.

About Robert Lovell

Business and finance journalist

    Replies

    Please login or register to join the discussion.

    avatar
    16th Apr 2016 09:14

    In two minds about this. We need to get people exercising, and as an occasional park runner they seem like a good bunch. but if an organisation is pulling in sponsorship from the likes of Adidas then surely they can contribute towards the cost of upkeep for a public facility.

    Thanks (2)
    By Locutus
    16th Apr 2016 21:29

    It's a real shame

    I'm a regular with Parkrun and ran this morning in my local park, along with 171 others.

    Whilst Parkrun is a company that has income from sponsors such as Fitbit (no idea how much), I doubt whether it has a huge amount of profit left after paying for the bar code scanners (to record runners' times when they finish), website maintenance, sending the automated text of position and time and whatever other costs they have.

    It's a great idea and the fact that it is free encourages those who would find it intimidating to join a sports club, just to give it a go, as they have nothing to lose.

    If Parkrun agree to pay Little Stoke Parish Council, then surely others councils would follow and Parkrun would be forced to pass the cost onto runners.  If the proposed £1 per runner per run charge were to be introduced then many runners would just not bother scanning in their bar code at the end (to avoid the charge) and others would just give up altogether.

    My Parkrun in London is on a tarmac path through the park, so it is not as if much damage would be caused by this once a week 25 minute or so procession.

    Some things just need to be free and in any case we all pay for our parks through Council Tax.

    Thanks (4)
    avatar
    By David_F
    17th Apr 2016 12:54

    The view from the other side

    I think there needs to be consideration for the “other side” also.  Parks are paid for by all residents for the use of all residents. I can see why some people might not want a couple of hundred runners pounding through the park while they are walking their dog, or playing cricket with their grandchildren. 

    Cycling groups have become a nuisance at weekends creating mobile road blocks when motorists want to use the roads for what they were intended for – driving on.  Similarly bunches of runners are now becoming a hazard to people attempting to use what park footpaths were intended for – strolling on.

    In my view both groups should be charged, if only enough to ensure that they are properly insured to compensate the people they injure. 

    Thanks (1)
    avatar
    18th Apr 2016 11:13

    David_F - really?!  Who says

    David_F - really?!  Who says footspaths are for strolling on and not running?  Or roads not for cycling?  parkrun does not request nor have exclusive use of the parks/paths/beaches used - so why should they be charged to use them as they wish, along with the strollers, dog walkers, cyclists and rest of the general public - it's what our taxes are for after all?

    parkrun does have insurance in place.

     

    CC - I think "commercial event" is a stretch.  No direct revenue is received from those who turn up,it is completely free.  The events are run by the community by volunteers.  The overall organisation is a not for profit.

    Surely thinking that any event, which encourages exercise & community spirit, which is free and absolutely inclusive to all, on a not for profit basis, run by volunteers and which does not have exclusive use of the parks/paths used should be charged is just mind bogglingly stupid.

    Thanks (5)
    By Locutus
    18th Apr 2016 13:37

    I would add as well ...

    Parkrun always starts at 9am - which is a relatively quiet time for most parks and that after 30 minutes about 90% of the runners have finished running.  Most of the bunching occurs in the first 5 minutes.

    We are always told at the start that we don't have exclusive use of the park and have to be respectful of other users.

    I can't speak for other parks, but in my own park, we only ever use about a third of the pathways during the run.

    Whilst I accept that if you happen to be strolling near to the start line at 9:05am, it can be a little intimidating if 150+ runners pass you, but it is a relatively minor inconvenience.

    If Parkrun charged its runners, then I would say it would probably be appropriate for it to pay for the parks it earns its income from, but it doesn't.  It is essentially a not-for-profit organisation.

    I think the parks are there for everyone to enjoy, so long as they respect others, whether they be walkers, runners, dog walkers, youths that want to play football, etc.

    I suppose you have to balance the potential inconvenience to other park users for a few minutes once a week against the benefit to society overall of encouraging people to be more active.

    Thanks (3)
    19th Apr 2016 09:34

    Another runner's view

    Speaking from experience as a runner of 2 years, regular running delivers a great many benefits for both physical and mental well-being - but any runner will tell you that the first steps are always the hardest.

    The first few weeks of running are very tough. Your body's adapting to the extra challenges, which means aching muscles, burning lungs, and painful joints (after my first run I had to take an aspirin before I could get to sleep that night, as my knees were so sore). You don't think it'll ever get any easier. Not to mention, you're worried that people might see you and heckle you. 

    Support from friends is invaluable at this time. I was lucky enough to have a great group of colleagues who all encouraged me to run, but not everyone will have that - and this is when a group like parkrun really comes into its own.

    I'm not a parkrunner myself (my Saturday mornings are for a late breakfast with my husband) but I've heard from a lot of fellow runners how good it is for encouraging new runners, sharing running with friends, and raising awareness of sport.

    I'd say that we all pay for public parks through council tax, and none of the runners I know are "path hogs" - walkers are far worse than runners for that :)

    In my view, parkrun should stay free for everyone, to encourage more people to enjoy running!

    Thanks (6)
    avatar
    20th Apr 2016 11:50

    A non runners point of view

    We have park run in our estate,

    The run monopolises all the paths in the park and then continues into our estate, monopolising the only green space in the estate.

    Its only for an hour, but other users cannot really use the space when they are there.

    We have 200 runners coming yards away from our dining room window while we are having breakfast.

    The impression park run likes to give is that it is for people who wouldn't be exercising if it wasn't for them. That may be true of a minority, but many would anyway. And some at are local run are members of running clubs who use the park run as training. 

    Personally I say charge them; resources are valuable and if you want to monopolise them you need to pay. No matter what the supposed rules and guidelines say, when you have 200 runners you are monopolising the space. If you are not happy to pay then just go run in a smaller group when you are not monopolising the area.

    We have a proper running track in our town, not used much....

    Thanks (0)
    avatar
    20th Apr 2016 13:08

    Why can't we all just get along?

    nathan666 wrote:

    We have park run in our estate,

    The run monopolises all the paths in the park and then continues into our estate, monopolising the only green space in the estate.

    Its only for an hour, but other users cannot really use the space when they are there.

    We have 200 runners coming yards away from our dining room window while we are having breakfast.

    The impression park run likes to give is that it is for people who wouldn't be exercising if it wasn't for them. That may be true of a minority, but many would anyway. And some at are local run are members of running clubs who use the park run as training. 

    Personally I say charge them; resources are valuable and if you want to monopolise them you need to pay. No matter what the supposed rules and guidelines say, when you have 200 runners you are monopolising the space. If you are not happy to pay then just go run in a smaller group when you are not monopolising the area.

    We have a proper running track in our town, not used much....

     

    So for one hour or so a week they 'monopolise' the space?  Leaving you only 167 hours in the week to use it yourself? What exactly do you need to do in that one hour that you can only do at that time that this monopoly deprives you of?

    And if these runners would be running anyway would you rather they spread out a bit so on a Saturday you got 30 an hour for 7 hours? Interrupting breakfast lunch and dinner?

    You could always try having breakfast earlier.  Or later. Or in another room. Or in the garden.  Or maybe go to the running track and have it there?

    Thanks (1)
    avatar
    20th Apr 2016 13:59

    personally i think

    it is a shame that councils fee it appropriate to charge so much for the use of football pitches, surely for anything u18 and below we should be making it as cheap as possible to participate (with exception of costs for the marking of pitches and goalposts)...anything that encourages exercise must be good thing?  I all depends what type of society we want to encourage I guess... 

    Thanks (1)
    avatar
    By DAS
    20th Apr 2016 14:02

    Thin end of wedge

    As a "society" we surely have to tolerate the inconvenience of others as the price to enjoy our own individual freedoms.

    Given the enthusiasm that some authorities show for charging for services that are already funded by the rate-payer, e.g. refuse management, and the ingenious ways in which they now raise revenue, e.g. parking meters, speed cameras, ... this is another tranche of the thin end of a revenue raising wedge, and must be resisted at all cost.

     

      

    Thanks (3)