Melbourne might be 10 hours ahead of European time but a new Australian cycling team is already a year ahead when it comes to planning for 2012. The team is going under the label of Green Edge Cycling, something The Inner Ring was first to reveal.
As a reminder Green Edge Cycling is being led by Shayne Bannan, the former head coach of Cycling Australia. Little else is known about the team for the time being, except that it intends to start racing in 2012 and has support from caravan maker Jayco and its millionaire owner Gerry Ryan.
But I have learned that this team could be employing highly questionable tactics to recruit new riders for next year. These methods appear to include approaching riders to sign a secret legal agreement to join Green Edge. This contract, separate from an actual offer of employment for 2012, appears to help tie the rider in question to the new team and includes reference to a substantial lump sum payment should a rider sign. If this is true then Green Edge looks to be flouting the UCI rules before it’s even got going. Here are the rules relating to signing a rider from the UCI rulebook:
2.15.120a A transfer period extends from 1 August to 20 October.
2.15.120b A UCI ProTeam or licence applicant may only recruit riders during the transfer period. For the purposes of this article “recruit” shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract with a rider to ride for the UCI ProTeam or licence applicant’s team, including situations where the rider in question is already under contract to the same UCI ProTeam or licence applicant at the moment of that recruitment, e.g. in the case of the renewal of an existing contract.
So we have a set transfer period that begins on 1 August and we should note the wording refers to “a contract with a rider”. This means no team or “licence applicant” can enter into a contract prior to 1 August. Note that the word contract is not a defined term relating to the formal contract of employment, it therefore relates to any form of contract between a rider and a team. If Green Edge is approaching riders and tempting them to sign an agreement before 1 August then it’s a big breach of the rules.
But this isn’t just a dull quibble over the rulebook and the timing of contracts. It’s a highly sensitive issue for teams in 2011 given that the new squad could be signing contracts under the radar. The practice of “tapping up” or “tampering” is forbidden precisely because it destabilises a rider and their team. Done in secret, the current employer of a rider doesn’t know they’ve got a rider leaving the team.
In addition I have learned that Green Edge could reward riders for UCI points gained during the 2011 season. On 30 October a rider’s points haul will calculated and a significant amount of cash per point could be due to the rider in question. Given UCI points are key to a team’s inclusion in the top league of pro cycling this would be a clever way to encourage prospective riders to bag useful points. But it’s a massive conflict of interest.
For starters, a rider is signed to one team for 2011 but stands to earn income during the same year from another, they can bank cash by getting points. Rather than loyally pursue team duties, a rider with a secret contract is incentivised to put personal ambition ahead of team loyalty. For example rather than sacrifice himself for the team sprinter, a rider might prefer to contest the sprint themselves, only to take a place in the top-10 just so they can accumulate points and ultimately cash.
|This time Stapleton might be asking the questions|
Melbourne-based newspaper The Age is reporting that Green Edge is “seeking to poach the cream of the country’s talent from the European establishment. Cameron Meyer and Jack Bobridge, arguably Australia’s top two young riders who are currently ensconced with powerful Spanish-based professional outfit Garmin-Cervelo, will be among those top of the hit list.”
Indeed Meyer and Bobridge’s sports director Matt White (himself linked to the new team), commented on the prospect of the new team hunting for new talent, saying “it’s all about relationships and what the team is offering” to Adelaide Now. It seems Green Edge is offering plenty.
But I can reveal that the Australian squad is also looking at riders on the HTC-Highroad team. Vaughters and Stapleton might want to reflect on just how loyal some riders will be this year.
If this could pose an immediate headache for some teams, it can also raise questions about the new team. Should a team be sailing so close to the wind? What would the UCI say about rule-breaking? Are officials at Cycling Australia aware of any of this?