Northern Ireland

Spectator charge mooted for North West 200

North West 200 motorcyclists
Image caption The clerk of the course at the North West 200 has warned that the event could "stagnate and die" if its share of public funding is cut

The clerk of the course at the North West 200 has said that he would like to see an entrance fee at the event.

Mervyn Whyte also warned that the gala road races could "stagnate and fall away" if public funding is cut.

He was responding to a BBC report that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) budget for supporting such events could be cut by 50% next year.

The board believes it could have only £700,000 available for grants, compared to £1.6m for the current year.

Mr Whyte said that organisers of the race, which takes place on the north-coast every May, had been liaising with MLAs about introducing entrance fees for a number of years.

However he warned of difficulties with the proposal.

He said: "It's the whole logistics and planning to ensure residents are not kept from their homes. It's not the easiest managed - hopefully in the future that will come about fairly quickly."

He said that it was currently unclear whether the event's budget would be cut but stressed that it had been a major net contributor to the NI economy.

"This year it brought £5m into the local economy and £8m to the Northern Ireland economy. And for every pound spent there has been a return of something like £33.

"I have no doubt that if it is going to be cut back, the event will have little growth in future years. It probably will stagnate and fall away."

The NITB has said it would like more than its projection of £700,000 but will have to await the outcome of the executive budget negotiations.

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