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Athletes and MPs expressed dismay the BBC could surrender the rights to the London Marathon amid warnings doing so would threaten the race’s fundraising mission.
British running veterans Jo Pavey and Martyn Rooney told Telegraph Sport it would be “a shame” if the corporation lost one of sport’s most iconic mass-participation events after organisers confirmed they were in talks over defecting to another terrestrial broadcaster.
Clive Efford, a member of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee and former shadow sports minister, said the BBC had a moral duty to fight to retain the rights for an event that gave all profits to good causes and provided vital exposure for an array of charities’ fundraising efforts.
The severing of what has been a 40-year partnership remained a real danger with less than a week until the final race of the corporation’s current contract, raising doubts about its commitment to the event.
Calling for it to stump up the cash needed to extend that partnership, Efford said: “The BBC should do everything it can not to lose it. It should recognise the fact that it’s not dealing with a private company. It’s actually dealing with a charitable trust when it negotiates the rights.”
Efford, whose Eltham constituency falls within the London Marathon route, added: “My concern, being an MP in a London Marathon borough, is that the charity that is the London Marathon is able to maximise the amount of money that it makes available to local sports organisations.”
Not being on the BBC would almost certainly lead to a drop in the number of people watching the race on television and potentially the number of charitable donations from viewers.
“That’s something that the London Marathon Trust should also take into consideration,” Efford added of a race that has raised more than £1 billion for good causes since it began in 1981.
Losing the London Marathon would also further diminish the BBC’s dwindling portfolio of iconic sporting events.
The past decade has already seen it lose the live rights to the Olympics – which it was forced to sublicense from Discovery – golf’s Open and Masters, the Grand National and the Formula One world championship.
This year alone has seen it fail to land the rights to England’s Test series in India or a share of coverage of the climax of Emma Raducanu’s fairy-tale US Open triumph.
Efford said: “It would be a severe hammer blow to the BBC’s reputation in terms of its commitment to sport if it were to lose the London Marathon.”
Pavey, who ran the race a decade ago, when she was Britain’s highest finisher in the women’s race in 16th place, said of the BBC: “It seems that they’re not able to show as much live sport, which is a real, real shame.”
She added: “The London Marathon is an institution and it’s an institution we’ve seen for 40 years on the BBC.
“You’ve got all those amazing personal stories, people raising money for such important charities and getting their charities names’ out there. It would definitely be a sad day if the BBC didn’t show it.”