THE owners of Bournemouth 7s Festival have personally spent more than £500,000 keeping the business afloat amid the “catastrophic” Covid crisis.

The festival’s managing director made the revelation as he lobbied MPs to help the events industry, which is said to be worth more than £70billion a year and 700,000 jobs.

Craig Mathie, who manages the festival owned by Roger and Fleur Woodall, has submitted evidence to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

He said the impact of cancelling festivals this year had been “nothing short of catastrophic for the entire sector”.

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Bournemouth 7s was founded in 2008 and welcomes 400 sports teams and 30,000 festival goers over the spring bank holiday. It employs a full-time team of seven people and around 1,200 at the time of the event.

Mr Mathie, who is also vice-president of the National Outdoor Events Association and founder of the South Coast Events Forum, said the festival industry had been “rocked to its very core”.

“As one of the very first sectors to close and seemingly one of the last to re-open, our community of event organisers, suppliers, freelancers, volunteers and entertainers have effectively been closed or out-of-work since March 2020,” he said.

“Whilst we have watched our friends and colleagues across hospitality re-open and trade at significantly reduced levels, we have remained closed. Confronted with ongoing overheads but reduced to zero income, many of those people who work in our sector have already left and many businesses have closed their doors for the last time.”

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He added: “This year, our business owners have personally invested over £500,000 into the business in order to keep our team employed and the business afloat. Without this direct support, our business would inevitably have been forced to fold.”

Mr Mathie warned that festivals could not operate viably with reduced crowd numbers next year – and said one of the organisers’ “greatest fears” was that they would invest more than £1million in the event and have it cancelled at the last minute.

He said the organisation had been “heartbroken” to be rejected for money from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund on the grounds that “part of our offer is sport”.

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He called for grants to companies that did not qualify for help from the culture fund. He also suggested more support mechanisms for the events supply chain, a new insurance underwriting system and for the government to work with the industry to confirm a re-start date for 2021.