FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
London Marathon – Dispatches FAQ
Why does 25p in the £ earned by The London Marathon Limited go to
In fact it is 100% of the profit that goes to charity. The London Marathon
Limited which puts on the London Marathon and other events is not and never
has been a charity. It is a trading company like any other trading company.
The only difference is that it is owned by The London Marathon Charitable
Trust Limited and all of the profits go to the Charitable Trust.
Virtually every major charity in Britain has a separate trading company.
Just like with them the whole of the profit of our trading company goes to
charity but only after the costs of putting on the event which include
costs such as the expense of toilets, barriers, venue hire, staff, rent and
all of the other costs of every year staging 5 world class events, and
putting on Britain's largest consumer fitness show.
Trading subsidiaries of charities do not hand over 100% of their turnover -
just their profits. An equivalent sized trading subsidiary of a charity as
an example is Oxfam Activities Limited which last year had a turnover of
£17.9m and made a £1.8m profit. The London Marathon Limited made a profit
of £4.45m on a £17.8m turnover.
In fact, the London Marathon is the most profitable mass race in the Europe
and probably the world and, thanks to the foresight of the race founders,
all of this profit goes to charity.
The London Marathon Limited stages what is widely recognised as the world's
greatest marathon and this is what attracts people to take part and hence
they raise over £47 million per annum for charities.
The London Marathon Limited has 25 full time staff and over 640 paid
temporary staff by the time of race day. Its salaries are based on what the
market rates are for other major sporting events and the glib comparison
made by the programme with charities salaries is unfair and completely
irrelevant. The London Marathon Charitable Trust has no employees at all.
The amount of pay that the top paid employee received included a one-off
bonus for finding and securing a new sponsor without using a sponsorship
agency which saved the Marathon (and hence the Charitable Trust) over £3
million over the life of the sponsorship.
We would also point out that in the months that we have been asking the
programme makers to detail their allegations they have never put to us any
complaint about the amount of salaries nor the level of costs of the Event.
Had they done so, or taken up any of our repeated offers to meet or even
returned our telephone calls they would have had full explanations and then
not made the fundamental errors that they have.
As it is, we wrote in great detail to the programme makers answering fully
the few points they did put to us but the programme has largely ignored
everything that we said.
The way in which the programme has been promoted in regard to this issue is
in our lawyers' view clearly defamatory and untrue and they have already
written to the programme's PR company threatening to sue for libel.
What about the money that the runners raise for their own charities?
The money that runners raise for the charities that they choose to run for
goes directly from the runner to those charities which get 100% of the
money raised by them. Between them last year the runners raised £47.2m and
all of that money went directly to the charities without any of it coming
to the London Marathon.
Why does the London Marathon not reveal more information about its costs
It is complete and utter nonsense to say that our accounts lack
"transparency". Channel 4 has seen the letter from our auditors who have
confirmed to that our accounts fully comply with all regulatory standards
and requirements. The last filed accounts for the Charitable Trust ran to
30 pages and in addition the last filed accounts of The London Marathon
Limited ran to a further 16 pages.
The London Marathon accounts drawn up for directors have a complete line by
line breakdown of all of the expenses incurred in staging the world's
greatest marathon and all of our other events and these are seen by
Directors who include representatives of the City of Westminster, City of
London, London Councils, Mayor of London and UK Athletics. In addition our
directors include very experienced independent appointees. Our accounts are
subject to a level of scrutiny that no other running event in this country
has to go through. Indeed it is difficult to think of any sports event in
the United Kingdom that has so much externally appointed scrutiny of their
accounts. What is particularly striking is that so many of our directors
are nominated by democratically accountable organisations.
On the programme, Kate Sayers said we have to be accountable to our
"stakeholders" and, as set out above, that is exactly what we are.
The amount that we spend on individual elements of the costs of staging the
event is highly confidential and commercially sensitive. For instance, we
have detailed negotiations as you would expect with all of our suppliers.
If we were to reveal the amount that we pay to them it would damage our
ability to get the best deals by having competitors compete for our
business. In many cases we are also bound by contractual confidentiality
We also note that Channel 4 when asked under a Freedom of Information
request refused to give any information about the how much they have made
from the sale of advertising to charities.
In refusing to give the information Channel 4 said "we...consider that the
information requested is highly commercially sensitive" and that "it could
severely prejudice Channel 4's ability to secure the sale of advertising
airtime to such advertisers at competitive rates in the future".
We are also concerned to note that the company making this Dispatches
programme has what appears to be a conflict of interest. It is part of Ten
Alps plc and a division of that company, Ten Alps Creative, is a direct
competitor of realbuzz.com (our Online Partner) in the provision of website
services. As its own website reveals, its services include Website Design,
Website hosting and Website Build Architecture and Content Management all
of which are services that Realbuzz.com provide to the London Marathon. One
of the questions asked by the company was how much Realbuzz charged us for
these services. Ten Alps also has a thriving business selling advertising
for charities – just like Realbuzz.
Channel 4 also ignored all of the work we do to publicize the grants that
we make. For instance, every local paper gets details of all of the grants
made in their areas and we put out a press release giving details of every
grant that is made or has ever been made. How can that be said lack
Is it right that the London Marathon sells advertising packages
The London Marathon publishes a range of different magazines and also sells
advertising on its web pages. Our customers have a number of different
options of how to spend their advertising budget and we are operate in a
highly competitive market against titles like Runners World, Running
Fitness and of course internet advertising channels like Google.
Many charities have told Channel 4 that our packages represent good value
and of course if some charities do not agree then they have many other
options of where to advertise.
As an example, Nick Barrett, Chief Executive of The Outward Bound Trust
told the programme makers, "The Outward Bound Trust has a number of choices
of where to advertise and chooses the London Marathon packages because in
our experience they are effective and offer good value".
Very few entries are used to support our advertising sales and, as Channel
4 have been told by many charities, the reason that charities buy
advertising packages is not normally based on getting access to entries but
in order to attract runners, either with their own places or without, to
run for that charity. There are a range of packages available many of which
do not have any places attached to them.
Of course Channel 4 did not tell the viewers that this is what charities
were saying since they did not allow anyone on to the programme who had
anything positive to say.
We gave them examples of how our magazine advertising packages in fact
compared favourably with other rival publications.
Could the London Marathon not reveal which charities have how many
Each year over 600 charities have entries in the London Marathon directly
from us. In addition hundreds of other charities benefit from having
runners with their own places run for that charity. We do not know who the
tens of thousands of runners with their own places are running for as that
is solely between the runner and their choice of charity.
We do of course know who we issue places to and we cannot tell people how
many entries they each get without their permission. It is interesting to
note that of the 172 charities with golden and silver bond entries
contacted by the Programme only 12 were prepared to say how many places
they had. We cannot be criticized for not revealing what the charities
themselves do not want disclosed.
Is the London Marathon Charitable Trust slow in giving out grants?
This is a ridiculous suggestion. We have a very good record of paying out
very quickly after grant conditions have been met. The London Marathon
Charitable Trust prides itself on the speed in which it makes grant awards.
Last year for instance, the Trustees made their awards less than 3 weeks
after the money became available to them. Sometimes we have to act even
more quickly to save playing fields that are under threat.
After grant awards are made, we usually then pay out within a maximum of 6
weeks after grant conditions are met and often much sooner.
Obviously we have to wait to pay out until grant conditions are met and
this sometime takes time as recipients need to commission the work and
sometimes get planning permission.
Our trustees over the years have included some of Britain's most
experienced grant makers and we currently have the Chair of Sport England
and the former Chair of Sport England as trustees. Our standards and
approach to grant making is fully in line with best practice.
The London Marathon Charitable Trust also must have the lowest running cost
of any charity in Britain. 100% of its receipts are used for charitable
purposes and it (as opposed to the trading subsidiary) has no costs or
As to the suggestion that it is unusual for charities to give grants to
Council, that is completely untrue. Many of the projects that we have
contributed towards have had other charitable funders including the
country's largest sporting charity, the Football Foundation. A good example
of that is the announcement we made recently of our funding for a London
Borough of Hackney project at Hackney Marshes in which the Football
Foundation is a co-funder. In its last financial year alone, the Football
Foundation made numerous grants to Local Authorities each in excess of
£100,000 and cumulatively worth £15.5 million as well as many smaller
Why is Channel 4 attacking the London Marathon?
This is really a question for Channel 4 but it should be noted that as a
result of a previous Dispatches programme, the founders and the London
Marathon sued Channel 4 and in 1995 Channel 4 settled the action by
agreeing to pay costs and damages totaling over £1 million and by
broadcasting an apology which in part said:-
"We now accept that the programme contained allegations which were wrong
and should not have been broadcast and we apologise to Mr Brasher, Mr
Disley and the London Marathon organisation".
Channel 4 also undertook to the Court not to repeat the allegations.
We also note that only earlier this week another Channel 4 programme
(Starsuckers) attacked another much loved charity, Band Aid/Live 8, an
attack which drew a stinging response from Bob Geldof.
In the past Dispatches programmes have attacked Mother Theresa and Lord Coe
so perhaps we are not in bad company.The programme makers, Blakeway
Productions, promotes its links with Blakeway Koimbi School Trust, a
registered charity which supports a secondary school in Kenya. Established
in 2004-2005, the Trust has properly submitted returns every year since.
However, according to the Charities Commission records, since 2005, it has
donated not a penny to its charitable cause.
In 2005, its charitable income was a princely £3,100, while its costs were
£3,018, leaving a surplus to go to charity of £82. Maybe that's where
Blakeway got the idea of investigating the London Marathon.
What about Patrick Cox of Male Cancer Awareness Campaign calling the
distribution of places to charities unfair?
There are over 180,000 registered charities in Great Britain and we
obviously cannot satisfy the demand from all charities. Charities have
rallied to support the London Marathon and its distribution system.
Jo Dyson, Chair of the Event Managers Forum an Institute of Fundraising
Special Interest Group, said, "The London Marathon is one of the most
important days in the fundraising calendar for thousands of charities. We
recognise that the London Marathon can never satisfy all of the demands
from charities and the public for places and believe that in balancing the
competing demands it has made the distribution of places as fair as can be
in the circumstances."
As long ago as August 2006 we told Patrick Cox that his charity could have
a Silver Bond and in fact wrote saying "I urge your charity to apply as
soon as possible". He failed to do so and you would have to ask him why he
fails to take up the opportunity of a Silver Bond place. He does not seem
to be reluctant to explore avenues for fundraising normally and even has
publically said that his charity would take money from the British National
Abi Crawford, Managing Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre
said, "We know that charities without bonds want places but we find it hard
to understand how they can justify wasting further charity resources in
constantly trying to get the current Gold Bond system over-turned. What
these few complainers are trying to do could potentially damage charities
such as ourselves who have worked hard to make the Gold Bonds a success.
For charities, fundraising success does not lie solely within obtaining
Gold Bond places. Any organization that is truly passionate about its cause
and strongly believes that it is providing a worthwhile service will find
innovative ways to fundraise and not merely rely on a Gold Bond place for
It is sad that the spirit and ethos of the London Marathon is being
challenged by those who it would appear; lack the ingenuity to find other
ways to fundraise effectively."
The vast majority of runners in the race have their own places, not via a
charity, but 78% of them choose in any event to run for the charity of
their choice. This means that every year all charities have an equal chance
to try and persuade some of these tens of thousands of runners with their
own places to run for them.
What about what Mike O'Reilly had to say?
Mike O'Reilly has a long history of antagonism towards the London Marathon.
For example, in 2007 he threatened to sue the Royal Parks for giving
permission to London Marathon for it to hold an event in one of the Royal
He wrote to the Royal Parks in August 2007 saying:-
"If this permission is not withdrawn then I will take all necessary legal
action via my lawyers Mischon de Raya to prevent the event taking place on
The Mall and Birdcage Walk including if necessary a High Court Injunction."
If anyone has tried to block other races in London it is therefore clearly
Examples of his vitriolic statements are readily available and it is very
sad that Channel 4 and Blakeway are prepared to give credence to this
misguided individual. Over the years, there have been many complaints about
the lack of standards of Mr O'Reilly's race. Indeed one disgruntled runner
even set up a website called British10kcomplaints.org. Many of the
complaints about the race can be read on runnersworld.co.uk. Rather than
continually attacking the London Marathon perhaps it would be better if he
concentrated on improving the standards of his own event.
The City of London and City of Westminster have both concluded that they
will not allow any new road races because of the amount of road closures
for events that have already been granted. It is of no surprise to us that
Mr O'Reilly has been refused permission under this policy since the London
Marathon has also been refused permission for another event on the roads of
these local authorities. The City of Westminster said:-
"...the use of streets in Westminster remain pressured and we are unable to
consider a new road event at this time".
What do runners and the charities think about the programme?
We are delighted by the support that we have received from runners,
charities and others. We have been inundated with messages of support from
people and groups attacking Channel 4 for their irresponsible reporting.
Many of the social media sites have also had similar messages.
Perhaps the last word should go to another great race, the real,-
BERLIN-MARATHON whose Race Director Mark Milde said,
"We find it quite unbelievable that the London Marathon is being attacked
for "only" making a profit of 25% all of which it hands over to charity.
The London Marathon is the envy of the running world and has established a
benchmark that others aspire to. We know of no other race that makes such a
high net margin and the fact that it is all handed over to charity is a
fantastic advertisement for Britain. To have such a charity involvement is
beyond imagination for Berlin."