Saturday, April 17, 2010
Running for Charity?!
Just over a week ago I was settling into the sofa after a mammoth shopping trek with the family. It was nine o clock and the kids had just gone to bed, all the groceries were put away and Alicia and I were having a cup of tea debating what to watch on the TV. Just as I switched on Lucifer's Dreambox (my pet name for the TV) my best friend Trev in London text me and told me to turn to Channel 4. I did as ordered and found that Dispatches was on. Dispatches is an investigative program that in the past has covered everything from Iraq's Death Squads, Ryanair caught napping, Why Kids Kill, Undercover in Tibet and so on etc. This particular investigation was aimed at the London Marathon and was titled "Tracing the Marathons Millions".
The aim of the show was to get a detailed breakdown of where exactly the charity money goes to and how much of it actually reaches these causes. You see, the London Marathon is itself a charitable trust and each year "distributes the money as grants to support community sports facilities and develop recreational projects".
Not only is the London Marathon one of the biggest marathons in the world it is also one of the largest fund raising events in the world. No other marathon even comes close to London's in respect to the amount of fancy dress costumes on display, it also gets more subscription applications than any other. To run in it you must apply for a lottery first and this consists of 120,000 places. These were filled last year in 2 days and 16 hours. Successful applicants then have to chance their luck all over again at a later date in hope of being one of the 40,000 chosen for the day itself. So I think these numbers will give you a pretty good idea of just how sought after these positions are. Then there is the charity option which the program seemed to concentrate on with a magnifying glass. Charities buy guaranteed places for runners every year and each runner must raise a certain amount to be able to take part. Up to 600 charities buy these places at £300 each and the list of who these "Golden Bond" charities is not for public viewing. The program then went on to ask where the £80 million it generates is spent and found many grey areas that lacked transparency. It also questioned why high executives were paid salaries in the region of £250,000 whilst executives in other organisations such as the RSPCA were paid around one hundred thousand pounds less! And on it went, various people had their say such as the smaller charities who have to "buy their way" into the London Marathon when it is more feasible for them to fly their charity runners to New York to run a marathon. I could get into even more details but that will only stray away from the message I am trying to convey.
I found the show quite interesting as I run for charity. I run for Autism. 100% of the money raised is ploughed straight into education. Its not a lot of money as we have not been in existence for very long but it has been greatly appreciated and has helped in a few different ways.
The investigation was looking for transparency and answers, that is fair enough. The organisers of the London Marathon, being the huge charity that it is, should have crystal clarity for all to see how these funds are allocated. According to them "The amount that we spend on individual elements of the costs of staging the event is highly confidential and commercially sensitive" The week that followed saw the London Marathon and Channel 4 embroiled in a mud slinging match that played out in public 2 weeks before the race itself. My opinion is this. The funds should be of public interest. FULL STOP. The Dispatches program should have considered the timing of their show a bit more carefully as no forethought seems to have gone towards the most important thing. The Runners. To the people who have trained hard and gone to the extra effort of raising some money I sincerely tip my hat to you. To the people who have donated the money in these extremely tough financial times I salute you too. Because its the power of giving that make these events. The generosity of the human spirit and bravery of those less fortunate is something that cannot be debated or have a price tagged attached to it. I have seen the very best in people through running and through enduring hard times, so never stop giving and never stop going. Because that my friends, as a certain credit card company will tell you, is priceless.
See you round the bend.
(all statistics gathered were from Dispatches and The Virgin London Marathon, any discrepancies got nothin' to with me y'all)