London Marathon invites views on controversial 'bond' system

The gold and silver bond schemes give differing levels of exclusivity to fundraising places in the annual running championship

London Marathon (Photograph: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
London Marathon (Photograph: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Organisers of the London Marathon are calling on charities to take part in a survey about its controversial bond scheme, which gives organisations access to guaranteed places in the race each year. 

London Marathon Events, which organises the annual race, said it wanted feedback from charities that had places in the event and those that did not as part of a “full review” of the allocation of guaranteed charity places. 

The bond scheme, which gives charities guaranteed places for runners on a renewable basis, was first introduced in the early 1990s. 

Given the enormous fundraising ability of the London Marathon – it breaks its own record for the highest amount raised for good causes by an annual single-day fundraising event every year – charities that own the limited number of places are unlikely to give them up. 

This means it is almost impossible for those charities that do not hold them to access guaranteed places. 

Gold bonds, introduced in the early 1990s, entitle holders to five runners on a perpetually renewable five-year cycle.

Organisers introduced silver bonds in 2007, enabling charities to gain access to one place every five years. 

But charities without places have been critical of a system that they perceive as being unfair. 

Hugh Brasher, event director at London Marathon Events, said the review had become even more important because of the “devastating” effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on charitable income. 

“Places in the London Marathon provide a very powerful fundraising opportunity,” he said. “We want to hear from charities of all sizes that have had places in the London Marathon and from those that have not.”

He said any changes would take until 2027 to be fully implemented because of the complexity of the existing system. 

Charities have until 5pm on 15 May to take part in the survey and should contact helpdesk@londonmarathonevents.co.uk to obtain a copy. 

The review is due to be completed by December. 

This year’s London Marathon, which was due to take place on 26 April, has been postponed until October, but Brasher has admitted that charity runners might not be able to take part if the current social distancing measures have not been relaxed. 

The event raised £66.4m for good causes in 2019. 

LME helped to stage the 2.6 Challenge, which aimed to raise funds for charities affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It has so far raised more than £9.2m for charities.

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