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Maillot Jaune or Lanterne Rouge; What does the Tour de France hold for Yorkshire’s Economy?

The world’s greatest free sporting event will be coming right through our county’s cities, towns and villages. The Grand Depart of the 101st edition of the Tour De France will take place on July 5th 2014 with cyclists embarking on the journey from right here in Leeds.

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It is the first time since 2007 that the opening stages of the Tour will be held in England. Over one million people lined the streets of London for the opening prologue 6 years ago. With 98% of Yorkshire’s population situated within an hour of the planned route there should be no shortage of local support with organisers estimating that up to 2 million spectators will turn out.

Yorkshire’s economy is looking to receive a huge boost with an estimated global TV audience of 3.5million tuning in worldwide. The benefit to Yorkshire of hosting the race is conservatively estimated at £100million. The initial outlay of £10million in staging costs should be eclipsed by the money generated by the Tour and coupled with the media coverage the county will receive, organisers are predicting the financial return could be a lofty £120million.

The concern for the region is how the county will cope with such a huge influx of people in such a short space of time. There will be a huge demand on hotels and restaurants, with plans already in place for “pop up hotels” the type often seen at music festivals and last summer’s London Olympics. These “pop up hotels” can be built from prefabricated blocks plugged together, or based in huge tents with extra facilities.

Experts have commented that the reality for small towns and villages is that the infrastructure simply isn’t there at the roadside to cope with the Tour. Leeds and Sheffield, the major cities onroute, will see the greatest short-term economic impact with Leeds enjoying the fact that the cycling entourage will spend a night in the city itself.

As with last summer’s Olympics the word “legacy” is being banded around again with promises of investment in the county’s roads and facilities along the route. The legacy proposes promoting cycling to youngsters and helping to introduce bike banks as part of a push to cut traffic congestion and boost healthy living. As with the Olympic legacy last summer and the proposed legacy the Tour could leave, perhaps we should monitor the improvements to the economy in Corsica (the starting point for this year’s Tour) when the Tour departs from Leeds which will mark a year of the Peloton having been and gone through the French Island? Corsica, like Yorkshire, invested €10m to improve roads and other infrastructure, hoping to eventually reap €100m in extra spending by tourists who saw the island for the first time on television.

Hopefully the whole county and not just the major cities will receive an economic boost from the Tour but if we draw a comparison with 2007, the Grand Depart weekend generated an estimated £73m for London but only £15m for Kent. With British cycling in such a purple patch thanks to Messrs Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish one thing we can be certain of is that there will be no shortage of British interest in the event on home soil as Froome and Wiggins battle it out for the Maillot Jaune!

Andy Boyde – Sport Consultant

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Super League and the unknown Trap Door

The recent decision by the Super League clubs at their annual general meeting was that the Super League will revert to 12 teams for the start of the 2015 season and the final decision on the format of the league structure will be made at an extraordinary general meeting next month.

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The two options that will be decided upon are a traditional promotion-relegation format of 2 leagues of 12 teams and a more radical version whereby the 2 leagues of 12 are split into 3 qualifying divisions two-thirds of the way through the season.

Super League began in 1996 with 12 clubs; it went briefly to 14 in 1999 before reverting to 12 a year later. It stayed at 12 until 2009 when Crusaders and Salford were admitted as part of a new licensing system.

The licensing system has come under scrutiny as clubs have year on year delivered annual trading deficits and too many dead rubber games have taken place at the end of the season with teams having nothing left to play for. The licensing system was voted for in 2009 to help develop home grown talent on the field because without the threat of relegation, coaches could select promising youngsters to represent their respective clubs and gain valuable first team experience.

Promotion and relegation has gathered much support recently, particularly from the likes of Featherstone, Halifax and Leigh who all feel Super League is a closed shop for them. Despite their aspirations and on field performances the 3 year licensing cycle denies them the opportunity to step up to the top level. The sport as a product needs to have more excitement and drama injected back into it for the fans and perhaps promotion and relegation would make the game more marketable and attractive to a potential league sponsor, which the game is currently lacking.

The decision to cut the league from 14 to 12 is due to the relatively small player pool in England. Under the licensing era it has been estimated that for every 3 home-grown players there is 1 overseas player. With the threat of relegation would we see clubs panic buying overseas players rather than taking the time and investment to develop academy players? As it stands there are 14 full time teams and the Championship is semi professional. A promotion-relegation format has the potential for clubs to take the plunge and go full time in an attempt to make the step up to Super League and therefore more opportunity for more players to be full-time professionals.

A team that is already full time is the London Broncos; they currently lie at the foot of the Super League table and as it stands would find themselves in the Championship at the start of the 2015 season. Aside from the Catalan Dragons they are the only team in the Super League not from Lancashire or Yorkshire. For the brand of rugby league to develop, losing the only team from the capital would be a huge blow for the game. They would receive a parachute payment for the first season they were in the Championship but if they were not to bounce straight back to the Super League the following season they could easily face financial ruin.

Whichever format is chosen the consensus is definitely that the game needs to bring back the drama and excitement that has been found wanting under the licensing era. Fans deserve to see more competitive and meaningful fixtures throughout the season.

The development of home-grown talent needs to be high on the list of the RFL’s priorities if we are to move away from the licensing system. Will coaches be judged on short term success in steering a club away from relegation or developing youngsters who can go on and represent England on the international stage?

The restructure will hopefully improve the product of rugby league enticing new sponsors and commercial backers to invest into the sport.

Matt Diskin- Sports Consultant

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Saddle up and enjoy the race of your life

What do Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, soccer star Wayne Rooney and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg all have in common?

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Each is the proud owner of that ultimate status symbol of the wealthy – a race horse. Along with wine, art and gold, thoroughbreds have long been the luxury investment of choice for the mega rich.

But the industry appears to be taking a new direction as an increasing number of ordinary members of the public decide to pool their money and head to the sales.

“Owning a race horse is more accessible than ever before,” says Richard Wayman, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners’ Association. “At the top end, you’ve got huge international buyers paying millions of pounds for the best bloodstock. But in recent years, lower down, there’s been a proliferation of people becoming part of a syndicate.”

But despite the glamour and excitement of owning your own race horse, speculative punters should always remember that purchasing a horse won’t necessarily mean you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

As a rule of thumb, success is 10% bloodline, jockey and trainer while the remaining 90% is good fortune.

Owning a race horse offers prestige, excitement, and a unique insight into the industry. But if you’re looking for a guaranteed return on your investment, think again.

Having rode horses as a jockey for over thirty years it is fair to say putting money into buying a racehorse is a risky proposition — you never know how good it’s going to be. All owners and trainers hope you can find a horse that can compete at that top level like a Frankel or a Black Caviar. But I think that’s more of a dream than reality.

Thoroughbreds range from £1,000 (“You’re very lucky if you buy one at that price and it wins any race. It’s a bit like buying a used car,” said Wayman) to more than £3 million.

And that’s just buying the horse. By the time you pay for stables, feed, trainers and jockeys, the net return is around 21% — meaning for every £100 you spend, you get just £21 back.

There are several different ways in which you can own a racehorse. You can have full ownership or part ownership. Two or more prospective owners can determine their share of ownership. Syndicates have been popular in recent years, whereby several enthusiasts club together, put money in the kitty and share the rollercoaster ride of racehorse ownership.

Before buying a racehorse or setting up a partnership you will need to decide whether you’re interested in a horse that runs on the Flat or over Jumps, or maybe even both. The British Flat racing season on turf extends from March to November, while racing on all-weather surfaces takes place throughout the year. Jump racing has its main season between October and April, but also holds Summer Jumping outside of these months.

Buying a racehorse from the Bloodstock Sales is good way to start so long as you know what you are doing, if you don’t then enlist the help of a bloodstock agent to accompany you to the auction. A bloodstock agent will normally charge about 5% of the purchase price of the horse in return for inspecting the horse and they should also provide a professional opinion as to whether the horse has the potential to perform on the racecourse.

Tattersalls in Newmarket and Doncaster Bloodstock Sales are the leading bloodstock auctioneers in Britain. Thoroughbreds are sold at public auction in guineas, this is because traditionally horses were sold in this currency and the five pence from every guinea was taken as commission by the auctioneer.

Win or lose, owning a race horse may not be a watertight investment. But it still offers a priceless experience.

Kevin Darley – Sports Consultant

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Welcome to the real world……….. as 700 UK players no longer have a club as pre-season begins

England may seem be the land of plenty for Premier League players with massive salaries, mansions, swimming pools and Bentleys to boot, but as the season ended and a new one starting in a few months, life as a footballer is not all it’s cracked up to be for many professionals who are now without a contract.

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The likes of Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Ronaldo might be feeling restless at the moment as they are touted for moves away from clubs to join rivals either at home or abroad. However there is a flip side to the celebrity world the top players live in………………. spare a thought for the hundreds of fellow professionals who are facing up to pre-season without a team to play for.

According to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) and other reliable sources, over 700 footballers are currently out of work as preparations for the new season begin in earnest up and down the UK.

It’s a list that includes trophy-laden footballers all the way down to trainees who have not been able to turn that experience into a professional contract.

The economic downturn that has seen unemployment escalate among the general population has also hit the world of football hard, and many high-profile footballers are now bracing themselves for a life outside the game, while many teenagers have had their dreams destroyed as football clubs tighten the purse strings.

There are, as reflected in everyday life, now clear distinctions between football’s haves and have-nots with new UEFA and economic conditions biting players hard.

Football is no longer immune to what is happening in the outside world, but given the huge amounts of money spend in terms of transfer fees, salaries, agents fees and sponsorships, as well as foreign ownership investment, sometimes you may wonder!.

Without doubt the very top players are multi millionaires but that is not the case in the divisions of the Football League or the Conference. According to sources there are over 700 footballers, including 200 apprentices who are now out of work and looking for new clubs with no guarantees that they will find a permanent club and if so only on a short term or non contract basis. In the lower divisions the average contract is just one year, and sometimes it can be a rolling monthly contract.

Since the end of last season and with the Confederation Cup currently in the spotlight, there has been a lot of transfer talk but it remains to be seen at what level as undoubtedly the bigger, richer clubs will need to bearing in mind the UEFA financial fair play rules which mean they are having to focus on that as well, which is a factor.

There is also the issue of clubs with spiraling debts caused by over spending, bad financial management and chasing the “dream” and are now dealing with problems, such as Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth who are still overcoming the effects of the problems that they got into when they were in the Premier League.

The out-of-work footballer is not a new phenomenon – and some players become voluntarily out of contract as they seek lucrative new deals – but football seems to be re-aligning itself to cope with the more austere times. It has always been competitive and players have always have been very vulnerable. It is not just a matter of players not being good enough, on average football loses around fifty players a year with permanent injury.

The PFA have a dedicated website which provides details of players who are available. In addition details are also sent to all the clubs in the UK and abroad to make sure it is known which players are available

It seems that many footballers now appreciate the harsh reality and are under no illusions how difficult it is to secure new employment due to wider issues caused by the economic climate.

It is now generally accepted that most clubs outside the top five or six in England are feeling the pinch which is making things tougher than ever for professional footballers to secure work.
Some smaller clubs have tried to turn the situation to their advantage, as shown in the  last years by Stirling Albion who offered a pay-for-a-trial scheme.

The club invited out of contract players in to play in a closed-door match.
The club recognised that it was different to how it had been done in the past, but it was argued that football, in particular in the lower leagues, faces harsh financial realities and it was an initiative to explore new ways of bringing income into the club to pay running costs, the bulk of which are players’ wages.
Every player that paid to take part in the trial was there voluntarily, was aware of the format, including the £200 fee, and was also aware there was no guarantee of a contract at the end of the trial period.
Those taking part were a mix of players released from professional contracts, former professionals who had dropped out of the game in recent years, amateur players and others who had recently completed football scholarships in the United States.
Of more than thirty who took part, twelve were invited along to two weeks of pre-season training, as Stirling became the first senior club in Scotland to do so.

So as a new season dawns and we hear, read and see the hive of transfer activity, as well as the obscene amounts of money involved, as in “normal life”, there is always those who have fallen by the way side but still in search of the dream!

John Hendrie – Sports Consultant

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