WORTHING Birdman 2016 has been cancelled because of ‘escalating costs’, organisers have confirmed.
The future of the competition has been in doubt because of the high cost of running the annual event.
Worthing Town Centre Initiative (TCI), organisers of the seafront spectacle, have decided to focus on other projects, with no significant sponsorship forthcoming.
Chris Spratt, TCI chairman, said: “The Worthing International Birdman has been a wonderful success for Worthing. It has raised the profile of the town and been a key event in Worthing’s calendar.
“The TCI feel it’s time to stop our investment while the event is on a high and turn our funds and resources to other town centre projects. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with the event over the last eight years.
“Without their enthusiasm and passion it would not have been possible to deliver such a world class event. Of course it may be that some other organisation may choose to take on the event.
“It was gratifying for us that having first brought the ice rink to Worthing Town Centre when we decided to step aside a private company took the facility forward and that is always possible with the Birdman.”
The TCI had hoped to run this year’s event as planned, with preparations continuing as recently as last week.
It had previously called for Worthing Borough Council to assist with funding but financial support was not secured.
In October, the Herald exclusively revealed the competition was in doubt, with businesses which fund the TCI split over its value.
Just five per cent of businesses part of the TCI – all located on or next to the seafront – reported boosted trade during Birdman weekend, leaving many questioning whether the event makes best use of its funds.
The costs of Birdman have spiralled in recent years, with next year’s event estimated to cost £72,000. The TCI’s total budget is £200,000.
Three years ago, the total cost was £56,000, with increased costs for scaffolding making up a large proportion of the increase.
New regulations now require detailed designs to be drawn up and approved – a hurdle which nearly saw this year’s event cancelled after a last-minute complaint to the Health and Safety Executive.
Seasoned competitors had also expressed opposition to the 100 metre jackpot being raised to 150 metres, after two consecutive years of the mark being reached.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Tarring Bob Smytherman said: “I would personally like to thank Sharon Clarke and the Town Centre Initiative for bringing this amazing event to Worthing, which really put us on the map.
“I now hope that the council will again at how we spend our tourism budget to build on the success of this event over the last eight years.”