Rallying cry for businesses to fund return of Tour of Britain to Norfolk next year

A rallying cry is going out today to businesses to help pay for the return of the Tour of Britain to Norfolk next year and make it a bigger and better event.

Norfolk County Council is keen to host a stage of the tour again in 2011 after this year's event attracted more than 130,000 spectators and brought in millions of pounds in revenue to the county.

But to repeat the success – and the benefits – the county council needs to get financial backing from the business community.

The council invested �265,000 to secure the event for Norfolk in 2010 and host a series of events in the lead-up to it – and it brought a �5.4m boost in return.

But faced with having to make millions of pounds of cuts in the current economic climate, the council says it cannot afford to contribute so much money again and is urging businesses to sponsor the event.

Ann Steward, the council's cabinet member for sustainable development, said: 'I would like to put out a rallying cry to get the tour back to Norfolk next year.

'It was such a successful event and it was fantastic to be part of it. It really got Norfolk behind it and it was great for the economy.

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'It would be incredible if we could get businesses behind us to get it back for next year, as we cannot put it on again without business sponsorship.

'Every penny counts for the council at the moment and we are not in the same financial situation as last year, as we have to make significant cuts.

'But we believe the success of the 2010 event will have alerted many businesses to the opportunities the tour presents and both Sweetspot [the organisers of Tour of Britain)] and the council are keen to explore the potential for local businesses to play a greater part in helping to secure a stage for 2011.'

The UK's biggest professional cycle race came to Norfolk on September 16 and the excitement and buzz of having the race go through Norwich as well as local market towns and the countryside mean the council is desperate to get it back.

James Carswell, cabinet member for culture, said the Queen had emphasised in her Christmas Speech the importance to communities of sport and the council wanted to keep the momentum going in readiness for the 2012 London Olympics.

He said: 'As we saw last year, the Tour of Britain brought everyone in the county together and people enjoyed it. But we cannot spend the same amount of money as we did. So we are looking for help, either from businesses or individual people. Working with the tour's organisers, we can then still hold a fantastic event next year.'

A report last month revealed that more than nine out of 10 of people in Norfolk would support the Tour of Britain returning to the county next year.

The stage brought a 20-fold return on the investment made to bring it to Norfolk and attracted a wider audience than any other in the UK.

It is thought that 130,000 people watched the 117-mile Norfolk stage as it wound its way from King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth.

Many businesses and organisations supported the event, which was also backed by five district councils on its route.

The tour benefited the local tourism industry most of all, with 81pc of cash generated by the event coming from visitors travelling from outside of Norfolk.

Each of the five district councils involved made cash contributions of �5,000 and a pledge for in-kind support in the same amount.

The tour also brought much-needed publicity with national and international media coverage, including a television broadcast seen by three million people worldwide.

Meanwhile, many schools along the route took pupils to see the race as it passed and organised special projects in classes in the lead-up to it. More than 130 schools took part in activities on the day and many schools near the cycle route closed to allow pupils to participate.

More than 200 businesses along the route helped promote the event and held their own special promotions.

Norfolk County Council, in partnership with Sweetspot, is inviting businesses to a briefing on January 18, at the Forum in Norwich, to explore the opportunities for Norfolk businesses to support a stage of the Tour of Britain in 2011.

It will take place at 7.45am for 8am until 9.30am. Hugh Roberts, chief executive of Sweetspot, will be at the briefing.

Businesses have been sent invites to the meeting. To ensure the council can provide enough refreshments, RSVP by Monday, January 10 to david.dukes@norfolk.gov.uk or call 01603 223142.