Organisers of the botched Sheffield Half Marathon have apologised to runners offended by letters telling them refunds will only be paid using money set aside for charitable donations.
Letters were sent to thousands of runners saying they can apply for a refund of their £24 entry fees - but warning the cash will be taken away from charities.
Organisers said covering the costs of providing the infrastructure for the race meant there was no option but to pay refunds from the charity donations. All money raised from entry fees from the annual event not spent on covering costs normally goes to providing charitable donations.
The move has provoked an angry reaction from many runners who have claimed organisers are engaging in a “guilt trip” on participants.
Robert Jackson, chairman of Sheffield Marathon Ltd, said: “The organising committee is sorry if people consider that its letter was ill judged, but their primary aim is and always has been to raise money for good causes. “They therefore felt it important that people understood if they did ask for a return of monies, it would be to the detriment of those charities.”
The race was cancelled earlier this year due to a lack of water while runners waited on the start line.
But thousands of runners still completed the course, despite some not being aware of the cancellation until the finish because they didn’t hear the announcement it had been cancelled.
In the days after the cancelled race, supplier Water Direct said it was not paid by Sheffield Marathon Ltd - but organisers said they were never told to pay in advance.
Ten charities are now set to lose out on tens of thousands of pounds.
More than £100,000 was handed over to charities from the 2013 event, with £175,000 paid out in 2012.
It is not clear how much - if anything - will be given to this year’s charities, who are The Children’s Hospital Charity, Breast Cancer Care, St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield Academy of Young Leaders, South Yorkshire MS Therapy Centre, SAFE@LAST, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Support Dogs and Myasthenia Gravis Association.
In an earlier statement, Mr Jackson said despite the last-minute cancellation, the full event infrastructure, including medical support and toilet provision, was still provided and needed to be paid for.
He said despite this, applications for refunds will be accepted “as a gesture of goodwill” - but only out of the money that would have gone to the charities.
“We have decided, without any admission of liability and on an ex gratia basis only, that we will consider applications for refunds out of the charitable sum,” he said.