Sheffield Half Marathon runs into procurement problems

Gurjit Degun
7 April 2014

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7 April 2014 | Gurjit Degun

The cancellation of yesterday's Sheffield Half Marathon due to a lack of bottled water for runners highlights the need for the professional management of suppliers.

The race organisers cancelled the event for the first time in its 33-year history because the original water order was not delivered. An official race is required to have “an appropriate amount of water” available for participants every three miles.

“We delayed the start while we made every attempt to source alternative supplies, but it became clear that we were never likely to get the sufficient amount appropriate to allow the race to continue safely,” said Margaret Lilley, chairperson of the organising committee.

A statement added that the event's organisers are investigating why the original order for the water was not delivered.

Experienced CPO Larry Beard, director of consultancy EIPSC, told SM this demonstrates the important role of procurement professionals.

“The organisers are all volunteers and there must have been some miscommunication or the supplier just let them down,” he said. “It sounds as if the water was due to be delivered on race day – to leave it to the morning for deliveries is a bit risky.”

Beard added that it is “absolutely” necessary for “a procurement professional or someone” to manage suppliers. He added: “I’d like to know if they did a risk assessment because [water supply] must have been flagged as a race-stopper.”

Tom Bedford, race director of the Richmond Running Festival, said: “At Richmond we have our water and energy drinks in a couple of days before. We also try and use well-known suppliers who have a reputation of delivering. I have no idea who they used and whether that was a problem.

“These mistakes do happen and it is always important to have some contingency but to replace water the morning of a race is very difficult and I sympathise with the organisers and back their decision.

“I would have named and shamed the company if it was their fault.”

Virgin London Marathon race director, Hugh Brasher, added: "The Virgin Money London Marathon works with Buxton Water for many months before the event to ensure the delivery of its 750,000 bottles of water. Our logistics partner TNT deliver it with a fleet of lorries to the 23 water stations on the route, and to contingency points on the course. 

"An operation of this nature, which has been honed over many years, is now in it final stages and is tracked throughout the process. The final element of the process is loading the water onto the lorries for delivery on the morning of the race. That process is currently under way.”

The company which had the contract to supply the water to the Sheffield Half Marathon has not yet been named, but users of social media have placed pressure on the race organisers to reveal who the supplier was. 

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