True cost of TT axe is hitting home for everyone
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True cost of TT axe is hitting home for everyone
[Image: HickyatBallacrye.jpg]
Peter Hickman reaches Ballacrye during the Supersport TT race 2 at TT2019

True cost of TT axe is hitting home for everyone

The prospect of motorsport returning to our screens looks a long way off right now as the UK braces for what is anticipated to be the very worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Formula One has been abandoned until June at the very earliest, MotoGP is going the same way and both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Indianapolis 500, two of the highest-attended sporting events in the world, have been postponed until later in the year.

Petrolheads face a long 2020, to put it frankly, and that's before the financial repercussions are felt that may mean that the motorsport landscape we left behind in 2019 returns significantly altered whenever that may be.

When it does, it is unlikely to be Formula One on our screens, but rather one of the national championships such as the British Touring Car Championship or British Superbikes Championship, given the ease in putting on an event inside one consistent country rather than touring the globe.

Unfortunately, though, the Isle of Man TT will not be among them.

The TT is a race widely regarded as like no other, where motorcycle riders depart at 10-second intervals to lap the 37.73-mile road circuit around the public streets of the Isle of Man. Two years ago, Peter Hickman lapped it at an average speed of 135.452mph. It is not one for the faint hearted.

But the two-week event's reputation for being like no other goes a lot further than motor racing matters.

The cancellation of this year's TT, announced last month in response to the escalating coronavirus crisis, will affect more than 100,000 people, from riders to fans, teams to local businesses and even further beyond.

"It was a very difficult decision to cancel the Isle of Man TT Races, but it was absolutely the right one in the current environment," said Laurence Skelly MHK, the Isle of Man's Minister for Enterprise responsible for looking after the island's economic development.

"A huge number of individuals and businesses support the event in a myriad of different ways, ensuring that visitors, volunteers and riders have a very positive experience year after year."

For an event so ingrained in motorsport history since its first running in 1907, it is remarkable that interest in the TT continues to grow.

Last year saw a record 46,000 fans travel to the Isle of Man, an increase of 4% on 2018 according to the government's Economic Affairs Division, and that brought with it an exchequer benefit of £4.8m.

That's £4.8m that will be taken out of the island's projected financial income this year.

Yet the impact of that reverberates much further, through the streets of Douglas and Ramsey and into every pub, shop and hotel that reaps the rewards of the TT festival through tourism.

"We know that the impact is far broader than government income alone," Skelly added.

"We have developed a package of support measures for businesses and individuals affected by the cancellation and are working closely with all businesses and individuals concerned to get this rolled out as quickly as possible."

There is a growing concern among teams and riders, too. For those who put their lives on the line by saddling the 200mph missiles that take to the roads, their main source of income is start money and prize money. No racing? No pay slip.

Twenty-three-time winner John McGuinness has already expressed the financial struggles he faces after losing a significant sum of money in the recent Norton scandal, which saw the British company placed in administration after owing a reported £28m-plus to creditors.

Other riders face losing their jobs, both in the saddle and outside of the sport after being placed on furlough, while there is no guarantee that the teams who have made the TT one of the highlights on the calendar will ever return again.

Organisers have not given up completely on the TT, with a hope that the Classic event scheduled for the final week in August could be utilised to stage a scaled-down TT given most of the leading riders are on the island to compete in the event.

That will depend largely on how the main British Championships are rescheduled, but the support from the government that the TT receives means roads can be closed for racing with relatively short notice should the opportunity present itself.

The Classic TT attracts just a fraction of the TT itself though and will not make up for the financial deficit that the residents of the island are braced for this summer.
Should that not be possible - and it takes a fair dose of optimism to hope that racing is back under way by August - the TT will be put on hold until next year, though the event itself will survive.

The TT's rich history has been interrupted just three times in the past, two for the outbreak of World War and the third 19 years ago when the Foot and Mouth Disease meant that 40,000-plus travelling into the island from the British and Irish mainlands did not appeal to the government.

What did appeal on each occasion though was getting the show back on the road as soon as it was 'safe' to do so - the use of 'safe' never quite feels right when discussing the TT but is applicable in terms of getting people to the event itself once the threat of Covid-19 has diminished.

Perhaps the truly unique attraction about the TT is that it's for the purists by the purists, and regardless of finances, dates and suspensions, the TT will return.

Jack de Menezes
Belfast Telegraph

03-04-2020, 02:50 PM
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