Sport Singapore (SportSG) has made the unusual call of requesting tenders to organise this year's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), casting doubt over whether incumbent organiser Spectrum Worldwide (SWW) is fit to continue taking charge of the Republic's marquee running event.
SWW had been contracted to run the event from 2013 to this year. And while the call for tenders for future editions was expected, the sourcing of services this year when a contract is already in place has raised eyebrows.
The Straits Times understands that SWW has failed to pay various vendors for their services, owing numerous parties six-figure amounts each. Singapore Athletics, for one, is owed $160,000 for several services, including sanctioning fees. A running event typically also requires support in things such as road barricades, tentage, advertising boards and online registration services.
Some of the delayed payments go back to the 2014 edition of the race, while others have yet to receive any money for work done last year. It is believed that, in all, close to a million dollars is due.
When contacted, SWW managing director Chris Robb acknowledged that some vendors are still owed amounts but said a solution is in the works. He said: "SWW is in the final stages of securing investment from a major global organisation which will ensure that all creditors are paid in full."
And while Mr Robb - a Zimbabwe-born Australian and veteran of sports events management here - has kept his creditors updated, even those who shared a good working relationship with him over the years have grown tired of "empty promises". Said a vendor who asked not to be named: "I have my own operation costs to cover too. The SCMS is a prestigious event and everyone wants to be a part of it. But if we're not getting paid, then there's no way we will take it up this year.
"Given the scale of the event, I'm not sure there are many other companies in this small industry that can take it on." He added that the reputation of the event among vendors has inevitably taken a hit.
At least one party has taken legal action to pursue payment of over $60,000. That case, which was filed last year, is now closed.
The SCMS is one of the largest running events in Singapore, with some 50,000 taking part last year.
As one of the main players in sports event-organising in Singapore, SWW had already been involved in the race route planning and venue and volunteer management since 2007 before being appointed by SportSG to take overall charge of the 2013-2016 races.
SWW also organised the OCBC Cycle for six years, before both parties parted ways in 2014. SWW continued to organise the Cycle Asia circuit across the region, although the Singapore leg was cancelled last year due to a lack of sponsors. There have also been no updates on whether the event, traditionally slated for April, will take place this year.
ST understands that SportSG is currently evaluating proposals from event organisers, with an announcement expected next month. Should a new organiser be appointed for this year, it will be a race to get the SCMS ready for launch. Registration typically opens in July.
SportSG did not answer queries specific to SWW's involvement in this year's race but did give its assurance that this year's SCMS - a Gold Label Road Race certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations - will not be affected.
A Dec 4 date has already been pencilled in. Said Mr Toh Boon Yi, its chief of strategic development and marketing group: "Registration will start in July and we urge enthusiasts to block the date and start training."