Organisers of a cheese rolling event which goes back centuries were yesterday forced to cancel the annual event after a row over a £20 entry fee boiled over.
Committee members responsible for the event revealed they had been verbally abused and even SPAT at over proposals to spread the event over two days and charge people to enter.
They were accused of ”cashing in” on the age-old Cotswold tradition and have now decided to scrap the event all together after the volley of abuse – which included threats of having their houses burnt down – became too much.
Cheese Rolling Committee members unanimously agreed to cancel the event, which in 2009, saw 15,000 people turn out.
Committee spokesman Richard Jeffries said: ”We have decided very reluctantly that expanding the event to create a ticketed two day festival is unworkable.
”Since we announced an entry fee, we have been bombarded with so much hostility and criticism, much of it at a personal level, including accusations of profiteering and some of the committee have even received threats.
”People have been spat at in the street, received verbal abuse in shops and at school gates and there has even been talk of bricks through windows and houses being burned down.
”We have also endured a torrent of on-line criticism and abuse from cowards who failed to identify themselves by hiding behind false identities. It has been horrific.
”We find these insults, accusations and threats hurtful, frightening and totally unjustified.
”The committee members have always given freely of their time and effort for years without making a brass farthing from it.”
The Coopers Hill race in Brockworth, Glos., was thrown into peril last month after elf ‘n safety and commercial gain led organisers to announce a fee to enter.
This was to cover the cost of clearing the area and to provide support staff to man the huge volumes of people.
Regular competitors in the June festival were furious to learn of the admission charge – which was £20 for adults and £15 for children – will be levied on this year’s event.
Organisers announced plans for a two-day festival with other forms of entertainment rather than the usual couple of hours of knockabout fun on a spring Bank Holiday afternoon.
Record numbers lined the hillside when it was last staged two years ago – leading to safety fears and traffic chaos.
Health and safety regulations inevitably followed – but the charge fired the anger of local residents who accused organisers of cashing in on commercial gain.
Chris Anderson, 23, who has won six cheese rolls, said: ”I don’t think the hardcore fans will pay £20 per day.
”I think they’ll go up on the spring Bank Holiday afternoon and have an unofficial competition – just like we did last year when the organisers cancelled it.”
The vociferous objections reached now lows, however, when committee members were abused in the street and threatened with violence and organisers said it was no longer workable.
Mr Jeffries added: ”In the past we have always cleared the ground of any rubbish or dangerous broken glass beforehand, cut back the grass and gone over it afterwards to pick up the litter.
”There is no way the event could have carried on in its existing form. When it was last run in 2009, about 15,000 people turned up to a venue that cannot really cope with more than about 5,000.
”It was absolutely chaotic, the traffic jams were horrendous and that is why the local authorities told us the event had to change.
”The lion’s share of the money raised by the sale of tickets would have gone towards the extensive costs of running the actual event. A significant amount of money had been raised through sponsorship but not enough to offset the whole cost of running the event.
”We would like to take the opportunity to thank Event and Management Services and Moose Marketing and PR for their excellent professional support and also the County Council, Police Authority and Highways Agency and of course the sponsors who had signed up. We hope they all understand our actions.”