Sir Gary Verity, the man who brought the Grand Depart of the Tour de France to Britain in 2014, has resigned as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire after an investigation into his expenses.

In a statement, the organisation said the 54-year-old had stepped down due to ill health, but added that “concerns have been raised in relation to his behaviour towards staff and his expenses”.

Since the Tour visited Yorkshire five years ago, Verity had been the face of the region’s growing association with the sport.

Cycling – Tour de France – Stage One – Leeds to Harrogate
Huge crowds turned out for the start of the Tour de France in Leeds in 2014 (Anthony Chappel-Ross/PA)

The hugely successful Tour de Yorkshire will be staged for a fifth time in May, and the UCI Road Cycling World Championships will take place in the region in September.

Welcome to Yorkshire’s statement said: “The board has investigated (the allegations) and concluded that Sir Gary made errors of judgement regarding his expenses at a very difficult time for him and his family.

“Sir Gary has agreed to voluntarily reimburse Welcome to Yorkshire for monies owed.

“Welcome to Yorkshire is committed to having a positive working environment and would like to thank all our staff for their continued hard work and dedication and look forward to working with them as the organisation progresses.”

Verity lost his sister in January and had spoken publicly about how much her death had affected him.

Following the announcement of his resignation, Verity said: “Over the last 10 and a half years I have always tried to set the highest standards of personal performance and leadership.

“Where this has been achieved, I am grateful and when, on occasions, I have fallen short, I apologise. My health is now my main priority. I ask for time and space to heal.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to lead such an inspirational organisation and work with such a creative and talented team.”

Verity had held the role since October 2008, but rose to public prominence when he brought the world’s biggest cycling race to his home region in 2014, which led to him being knighted a year later.

Verity admitted he had known relatively little about cycling prior to staging the race but recognised its value in showcasing the region.

Subsequent projects strengthened his attachment to the sport. The Tour de Yorkshire, held every year since the Grand Depart as a legacy event, regularly attracts crowds which dwarf those of far more established races on the continent.

The four-day race will take place for the fifth time in May and is bracing for its biggest edition yet, with Team Sky planning to use the race to relaunch itself as Team INEOS and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome due to take part.

Verity was also in talks over bringing the Spanish Grand Tour, La Vuelta, to the region as well as a return of the Tour.

Those latter projects could now be in question however, given that Verity’s close friendship with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was crucial to Welcome to Yorkshire’s dealings with the Amaury Sports Organisation which operates the races.

Verity was also credited with making a major push in women’s cycling, with the women’s edition of the Tour de Yorkshire growing in stature each year.

In 2016, Verity secured sponsorship that allowed the race to offer prize money of £50,000, at the time a record for a women’s race and a larger pot than that on offer to the men, while in another significant step the race was also televised in full.

“Welcome to Yorkshire would like to place on record its thanks to Sir Gary for the commitment and energy he has demonstrated during his 10 years at Welcome to Yorkshire,” the statement added.

“Sir Gary has led the transformation of Yorkshire’s profile, most notably through the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014 and the subsequent legacy of the Tour de Yorkshire, which have significantly boosted the county’s economy. We wish him well for the future.”

As well as having a fine reputation within cycling, Verity was clearly highly regarded outside of the sport too, most recently linked with the chief executive’s role at the Premier League.