Road relay cancellation row still running

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A leading athletics official has hit back at claims by Sunderland Council that they were not to blame for the cancellation of the North Eastern Counties AA (NECAA) Road Relays at Hetton Lyons Country Park last weekend.

A leading athletics official has hit back at claims by Sunderland Council that they were not to blame for the cancellation of the North Eastern Counties AA (NECAA) Road Relays at Hetton Lyons Country Park last weekend.

A row has blown up between organisers and the council over the decision not to hold the historic event this year, with civic chiefs refuting suggestions that their ‘red tape’ was at fault.

Now, Mike Bateman, a former chairman of the NECAA Road Running Committee, has claimed he tried to meet the council to discuss the issue last year, but received no reply.

He said: “From 2010 to 2017 the event had been held successfully at the park but, shortly before the 2018 races, the Council demanded that the organisers agree to a ‘Licence to Occupy’.

“They would not accept us signing on behalf of the Association, but stressed that we would be personally be responsible for any damage or other claims.

“I was the only official prepared to sign for the licence, rather than cancel the event then at three days notice.”

Bateman was successful in getting the licence modified from unlimited liability to £50 million – the limit of UK Athletics insurance for races.

Anxious to avoid problems for those organising this year’s event, Bateman wrote to the council in October, expressing concerns about the personal indemnity and inappropriate conditions required to sign for licences.

He suggested a meeting to discuss the position.

“Sunderland Council didn’t even give me the courtesy of a reply,” he added.

“This year they sprung their demand for a licence only two weeks ahead of the event, again insisting on personal indemnity and with unlimited liability back, rather than the £50million UK Athletics limit.”

A Sunderland Council spokesman said: “The Council has already set out the position in relation to this matter and is happy to continue dialogue with the organisers”.