The landmark Tour de France Grand Depart from Yorkshire was on the brink of being forfeited amid a row over Government funds, it has been revealed.
Chair of the now-disbanded organising body TDFHUB2014 Ltd, Sir Rodney Walker, has revealed that his unexpected role in making sure the July 5 to 7 spectacle went ahead only came about after a fall-out with Government chiefs.
The bid to host the first three stages of Le Tour was won through the leadership of Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, in 2012, pipping the Government-supported bid to host the race in Scotland.
During a question and answer session at The Leeds Club yesterday Sir Rodney claimed that the maverick move left ministers in Whitehall furious and prompted a rift that almost saw the Government refuse to give its £10million of financial backing.
The 71-year-old said: “Gary’s [Verity] intervention was to say the least unwelcome and my first real interaction was when my successor and chair of UK Sport said ‘do you know that man? Can you tell him to back off?’”
“I didn’t even bother asking. I think I also said ‘do not underestimate his ability to win’.”
He joined forces with Welcome to Yorkshire and lobbied for support, seeking a change in opinion from then Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson, who eventually yielded but insisted Sir Rodney oversee the Government funds through TDFHUB2014 Ltd. Gary Verity was made joint vice chairman.
Sir Rodney said: “The Government was seriously p****d off that Welcome to Yorkshire got in the way of their masterplan but in the end, to be fair, they could not have been more complimentary about what was achieved.”
He added: “It was down purely and simply down to Welcome to Yorkshire and to be fair it was down to one man, Gary Verity, he was the man who had the vision. As the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire he saw the opportunity to put Yorkshire on the world stage.”