Women’s Tour race organisers pull plug on live TV coverage as they face up to ‘commercial realities’

Women's Tour - Women's Tour race organisers pull plug on live TV coverage as they face up to 'commercial realities' - PA

Women’s Tour – Women’s Tour race organisers pull plug on live TV coverage as they face up to ‘commercial realities’ – PA

Next week’s Women’s Tour, the premier road race for women in the UK, will not be broadcast live on television as originally planned, organisers have announced. The absence of live television coverage threatens the race’s elite status, with the UCI cycling’s governing body, demanding it of all WorldTour tier races.

The Giro Rosa, the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia, was controversially stripped of its WorldTour status this year after it failed to produce live images in 2020.

Women’s Tour organisers SweetSpot said a daily highlights programme would still be available on ITV4 and Eurosport GCN for next week’s seventh edition of the race.

But in a statement it added that the current market conditions made it commercially impossible to produce live coverage this year, an addition which had been announced with great fanfare in February.

“The past two years have been incredibly challenging as a race organiser, particularly since there has not been an edition of the Women’s Tour for 28 months,” read the statement. “This has been the hardest time in the race’s existence and provided challenges even greater than when we created and established the Women’s Tour in 2014.

“As a result of these commercial realities, we will not be able to expand the coverage of the Women’s Tour in 2021 to include a live broadcast.”

The Women’s Tour swiftly became one of the most popular races on the women’s calendar after its inaugural in 2014, with huge crowds turning up year after year and riders praising the organisation and general high standard of things such as accommodation.

The race also famously featured prize money equal to the men’s Tour of Britain. However, that too has taken a hit following the departure of previous sponsors OVO Energy.

The total prize pot for next week’s six-day race is €37,250 compared with €117,140 for last month’s men’s Tour of Britain. Both races are now sponsored by AJ Bell.

That is a reduction of about €60,000 on prize money since the last Women’s Tour in 2019 and works out at roughly €6,000 per day prize money on average for the women compared with €14,000 per day for the men.

The men’s Tour of Britain also had a slight reduction in its total prize pot this year, moving it in line with the UCI’s minimum requirement.

However, it is the absence of live television which will be felt most keenly and which will come under most scrutiny with the men’s race still being broadcast live.

SweetSpot chief executive Heath Harvey told Telegraph Sport three years ago that live coverage represented the “final frontier” for the women’s event but that it was difficult to make the numbers add up, costing “circa £100,000 per day to create a live show”.

“We appreciate that fans of the Women’s Tour in the UK and around the world will not be able to watch the race live. We share their disappointment,” Sweetspot’s statement concluded.

“There is nothing that we would like more than to be able to showcase the fantastic racing, beautiful scenery and great community support that the race receives through a live broadcast.

“The whole organisation shares the same determination to have a fantastic Women’s Tour in October 2021 and to do our upmost to be able to tell the story of the 2022 race live around the world.”

The race starts in Bicester next Monday and ends in Felixstowe a week on Saturday.