On a weekend of great sporting events, including the Grand National and the Boat Race, one of the most notable events was the cancellation of the Sheffield Half Marathon after organisers said that they had been “let down” by their water supplier.
Following an initial delay in the start of the event whilst the organisers tried to procure water, the event was ultimately cancelled. However, there was a lack of information available to the runners, with comments that tannoy messages could not be heard by all. Many decided to continue, some without realising that there was an issue with the water, and some 4100 runners did complete the course. This caused confusion in policing the event, with road blocks initially implemented, but the race then allowed to continue.
Whilst it would be interesting to understand what exactly happened to the promised supply of water and whether adequate checks had been done to confirm the resilience of this supply chain, there are other interesting aspects that will need to be considered as part of the review.
In terms of publicity, Sheffield Half marathon organisers have understandably been under fire for their response, and it is to their credit that they have not identified their water supplier in order to deflect some of the blame. This morning, the marathon website is painfully slow, with no mention made as to whether runners will be able to reclaim their race fees.
It is also worth considering the reputational impact on Sheffield itself, and whether such an incident will present the image that the city would prefer, particularly in the run up to the Tour de France.
A wide number of stakeholders have been impacted including runners as well as family and friends who came up to support; Police and other emergency services; volunteers; and staff. Perhaps a more critical stakeholder were the charities who would have benefited from the sponsorship. The organisers will need to understand the impact on each of these groups as part of a review of the incident; will they be able to accurately assess the financial impact on charities, and will there be any form of redress?
This event demonstrates the need to understand your stakeholders and supply chain and to ensure effective communications, both during the initial response and in the days that follow. However, it also demonstrates that opportunities do arise from adversity; a number of local suppliers were able to assist with provision of water, and have gained publicity from this assistance!