Northern Ireland

Organisers warn this Belfast Marathon 'could be the last'

Runners at Belfast Marathon
Image caption The Belfast Marathon has been going for 36 years

The organisers of the Belfast Marathon say it could be the last time it is staged because of new legislation.

The organising committee chairman, David Seaton, said they been told in future they may have to pay for policing which he said would kill off the event.

The Belfast Marathon has been running for 36 years, overcoming many obstacles along the way.

The additional costs around policing however could be one hurdle too many.

The PSNI says it has been working alongside the marathon organisers, but the reality of financial pressures means police resources must be directed towards areas of greatest need such as anti-social behaviour and drug dealing.

The police statement went on to say that as with all large scale public events where the safety of the participants, attendees and the general public is paramount, the Belfast City Marathon will be policed in a manner and style appropriate and proportionate to the threat and risk presented.

However, Mr Seaton said future events would not be able to carry the burden of additional costs for policing.

"The new road legislation means we're going to have pay for policing costs among other things," he said.

"I'm told that an officer is charged out at £65 an hour and on bank holiday Monday it's twice that. That's £130.

"They are usually on duty for seven to eight hours so that's about a thousand pounds each.

"Last year we had about 120 officers, that's £120,000. We couldn't take that hit. That would be the end of the marathon."

Image caption David Seaton says future events would not be able to carry the burden of additional costs for policing

Last week, the organisers went to Stormont to have talks with an all-party sports group led by Ulster Unionist MLA and former runner Mike Nesbitt.

Mr Seaton said the politicians have agreed to have a look at the issue to see what can be done about it.

He said other running clubs organising similar events would also be affected by the legislation and he questioned why his sport was being penalised when other groups are not affected.

"Organisations who parade such as the Orange Order, the Hibernians, the Blanketmen, the Boys Brigade and the gay rights people aren't subject to this legislation and we are, at a time when the government is very keen to get people out running and exercising with the current obesity problem," he added.

The marathon organisers are hoping the new legislation will be applied "softly".

"If it's not, we are in big, big bother. The future of the marathon and many other road racing events throughout Northern Ireland which are organised primarily by volunteers could all go to the board."

On Monday, thousands of people will line up in front of the city hall in Belfast for the start of the 36th Belfast Marathon.

If this event is reaching the end of its road it will be a bitter blow, not just for those prepared to take on the gruelling challenge, but also for the charities who benefit from the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised each year by many of those taking part in it.

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