THE future of the biggest beach volleyball event in the country - which is held on Weymouth Beach - has been put in jeopardy.

Funding for the Weymouth Beach Classic has been dropped - and organisers are set to be charged £1,500 for the use of the beach.

The Classic was the first-ever beach volleyball event held in Great Britain when it began in 1983 and has been held on the sands in the summer ever since for the past 40 years.

It remains Britain’s most prestigious event and was described by British Beach legend Denise Austin as the "Wimbledon" of British Beach Volleyball.

Dorset Echo: Winners of the men's event in 2023Winners of the men's event in 2023 (Image: GRAHAM HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY)

However, the future of the event has been put in jeopardy after Weymouth Town Council decided to withdraw funding for the event.

In the past, the town council has allocated £9,000 which went into Weymouth Sports Festival, a two-week sporting event held on the beach annually in July.

Part of this funding, around £6,000 went towards the Weymouth Beach Classic which would run the week afterwards.

The Sports Festival has now been scrapped by the town council and funding for the Beach Classic has gone with it.

Additionally, the town council has informed organisers that they will be charged around £1,500 to use the beach for the event.

Organisers have said they plan to go ahead with the event in 2024, but the long-term future of the competition has been put in doubt.

Graeme Sawyer, Weymouth Beach Classic chairman, said: "We are aiming to carry on and host the event this year, we are still being supported by We Are Weymouth and Nantes Solicitors.

"It is not just that the funding has been cut, we weren't that surprised by that, but they have charged us £1,500 to use the beach.

Dorset Echo: A crowd watches on during the women's final in 2023A crowd watches on during the women's final in 2023 (Image: GRAHAM HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY)

"We are putting on an event that brings hundreds of people into the town.

"We know last year 20,000 people at least watched for five minutes, some of them would have been here already, but we have about 300 officials, players and organisers, they all spend money in car parks, bars and hotels.

"It seems galling to charge us to use the beach.

"We are looking for sponsors, currently we don't have a title sponsor.

"This is the top event in British beach volleyball, it is the most important one for the players.

"We are very proud of that status and we want to maintain that, this will make it much harder to keep that reputation.

"The long-term future for the event is not good, we can do it this year but whether we can put on the event for future years without a major sponsor is doubtful."

Dorset Echo: Action from the men's final at the Weymouth Classic in 2023Action from the men's final at the Weymouth Classic in 2023 (Image: GRAHAM HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY)

A spokesperson for Weymouth Town Council said: "A wide range of events are planned to take place on Weymouth Beach over the course of the year, offering an exciting array of activities for residents and visitors to enjoy.

"The town council has a budget of £9,000 to support these. In previous years the majority of this (£6,000) was allocated to the beach volleyball event.

"The council has a duty to ensure this public funding is more evenly shared to support all groups organising events and activities on the beach.

"This was communicated to the volleyball organisers 12 months ago.

"At this time, the council also informed the organisers that they would be charged for use of the beach using the same agreed fees and charges that all other event organisers are charged, which is only fair.

"The group were also informed of the council’s community grant scheme which offers grants up to £3,000 for such events and encouraged them to apply.

"Any groups looking for funding for projects and events that benefit Weymouth communities can visit the website for full details of grants available across the town."

Dorset Echo: Cole Durant hits a smash during the 2022 men's finalCole Durant hits a smash during the 2022 men's final (Image: LIAM JEFFERIES)

Mr Sawyer has said that the grant scheme would not be viable as the grants only last for a year and cover items which are being purchased for an event, whereas organisers for the Beach Classic rent the use of seating and the PA system and want to create a sustainable event for years to come.

He added: "We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in supporting the event either in a small capacity or as a title sponsor. For details go to our website"